Radioactive decay is the process by which an atomic nucleus of an unstable atom loses energy by emitting ionizing particles (ionizing radiation). The emission is spontaneous, in that the atom decays without any interaction with another particle from outside the atom (i.e., without a nuclear reaction). Usually, radioactive decay happens due to a process confined to the nucleus of the unstable atom, but, on occasion (as with the different processes of electron capture and internal conversion), an inner electron of the radioactive atom is also necessary to the process.
Radioactive decay is a stochastic (i.e., random) process at the level of single atoms, in that, according to quantum theory, it is impossible to predict when a given atom will decay. However, given a large number of identical atoms (nuclides), the decay rate for the collection is predictable, via the Law of Large Numbers.