TABLE 1-1 Examples of Common Isotope Applications


Selected Applications

Food and agriculture

• Improve nutritional status and health of plants and animals

• Maximize optimal crop production

• Reduce food-borne diseases and increase food preservation

Biochemistry, biology, biotechnology, chemistry, physics, physiology

• Molecular studies

• Metabolic and biological tracers


• Exploration and understanding of the universe

Earth sciences: geochemistry, geology, geophysics, hydrology, and marine, sciences

• Exploration and preservation of natural resources

• Study of water resources and maintaining a safe and abundant water supply

Ecological and environmental research

• Environmental chemistry and measurements

• Environmental pollution studies: occurrence, cause, and remedy

Health care

• Diagnostic nuclear medicine such as cardiological diagnosis

• PET research and applications

• Radionuclide treatment of disease such as cancer

• Radiopharmaceuticals

• Drug research (uptake, binding, metabolism, clearance)

Industrial manufacturing and research

• Materials sciences

• Radioisotope thickness gauges for steel plate or paper production

• Computer chip production


• Disease prevention and health promotion research (cancer, heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis, etc.)

• Energy metabolism in humans and animals

• Tracer techniques to determine nutrition requirements


• Risk assessment

• Soil and water exposure studies


SOURCE: International Atomic Energy Agency, 1990.

Historically, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its predecessors, the Atomic Energy Commission and the Energy Research and Development Agency, have supported the development and application of isotopes. This area of science has been a stellar example of technology transfer, even before such a term was used. The molybdenum/technetium generator, the mainstay of modern nuclear

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