BOX 1-1 The Discipline: Nuclear and Radiochemistry
For this report, the committee drew on two seminal textbooks for definitions of the discipline. The first, Nuclear Chemistry: Theory and Applications (Choppin and Rydberg 1980, page vii), defines nuclear chemistry as follows:
There is no universally accepted definition for the term “nuclear chemistry.” For purposes of our text we regard nuclear chemistry in its broadest context as an interdisciplinary subject with roots in physics, biology, and chemistry. The basic aspects include among others (i) nuclear reactions and energy levels, (ii) the types and energetics of radioactive decay, (iii) the formation and properties of radioactive elements, (iv) the effect of individual isotopes on chemical and physical properties, and (v) the effects of nuclear radiation on matter. Research in (i) and (ii) is often indistinguishable in purpose and practice from that in nuclear physics, although for nuclear chemists chemical techniques may play a significant role. (iii) and (iv) can be classified as radiochemistry and isotope chemistry, while (v) falls in the classification of radiation chemistry.
Applied aspects of nuclear chemistry involve production of radioactive isotopes, radiation processing, radiation conservation of foods, etc., as well as all parts of the nuclear fuel cycle such as uranium recovery, isotope separation, reactions in the fuel elements, processing of spent fuel elements, waste handling, and effects of radiation on reactor materials. Radiation health aspects and techniques for remote control are other important fields.
Knowledge in nuclear chemistry is an essential tool for research, development, and control in many areas of chemistry and technology (tracer methods, activation analysis, control gauges in industry, etc.), medicine (radiopharmaceuticals, nuclear medicine, radioimmuno assay, etc.), geology, and archeology (radioactive dating).
The second book, Nuclear and Radiochemistry (Friedlander et al. 1981, p. v), takes a similarly broad view of the discipline:
In adopting the present title of the book in 1955 we gave explicit recognition to a dichotomy in the field and in the audience addressed; a dichotomy that has probably become even more pronounced since then. The book is written as an introductory text for two broad groups: nuclear chemists, that is, scientists with chemical background and chemical orientation whose prime interest is the study of nuclear properties and nuclear reactions; and radiochemists, that is, chemists concerned with the
modifications after World War II led to the curtailment of plutonium production beginning in 1964 and by 1972 eight of nine production reactors had been shut down, leaving significant cleanup issues (DOE 2011a). In addition, concerns about nuclear safety and security due to atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons and reactor accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, as well as the attraction of new areas such as materials and nanoscience, have resulted in declining interest in nuclear and radiochemistry.