We show that low-energy (20 eV–20 keV) electron or photon irradiation extinguishes the characteristic physical and chemical properties of single-walled carbon nanotubes, indicating that the irradiation damages the nanotubes. The irradiation-induced defects convert the electric properties of metallic SWNTs to semiconducting, and the nominal bandgap can be tuned simply by the irradiation dose. The defects also have the following interesting properties. The damage and recovery are reversible, indicating that the number of carbon atoms is preserved. The damage and recovery strongly depend on the diameter, suggesting that the damage is prominent in a rolled up graphene sheet, but not in a planar one. The activation energy of the defect healing is so small, depending on the diameter, that the defects can be healed even at room temperature or below.