There is a distinguished history of discoveries, achievements, and societal impact for nuclear and radiochemistry (defined in Box 1-1). After the discovery of radioactivity by Antoine Henri Becquerel and Marie and Pierre Curie, who jointly received the Nobel Prize in physics in 1903 (Nobelprize.org 2012a), and of radium and polonium by Marie Curie, who received the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1911 (Nobelprize.org 2012b), interest in nuclear and radiochemistry and the potential uses of radioactive materials grew significantly (see Figure 1-1).
In 1937 Glenn Seaborg received his Ph.D. in nuclear chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, and in 1939 E.O. Lawrence, also at UC Berkeley, won the Nobel Prize in physics for inventing the cyclotron (Nobelprize.org 2012c). A significant development in medicine was the use of radioisotopes as tracers to study chemical processes by George de Hevesy, for which he received the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1943 (Nobelprize.org. 2012d). In 1951 Seaborg jointly earned the Nobel Prize in chemistry with Edwin McMillan for discovery of the transuranium elements and elucidation of their chemistry (Nobelprize.org 2012e). By the 1950s, radioactivity and radioactive elements were being applied in many fields such as medicine, energy, defense, and environmental monitoring.
The Atomic Energy Act signed into law in 1954 established the national laboratories, many on university campuses across the United States. As a result, the field of nuclear and radiochemistry developed from the study of the fundamental physical and chemical properties of radioactivity, which had mainly been applied in national defense, to applications in a range of areas, including cancer treatment, electricity production, and study of the impacts of large-scale events such as the use of nuclear weapons at the end of World War II.
The field of nuclear and radiochemistry has changed significantly since the mid-1960s, due to both positive and negative circumstances. U.S. de-
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
fense 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.
chemical manipulation of radioactive sources and with the application of radioactivity and other nuclear phenomena to chemical problems (whether in basic chemistry or in biology, medicine, earth and space sciences, etc.). Despite the apparently growing division between these two audiences, individuals have always moved fairly freely from one field to the other, and we continue to feel that nuclear chemistry and radiochemistry interact strongly with each other and indeed are so interdependent that their discussion together is almost necessary in an introductory text.
The Workforce: Nuclear and Radiochemists
As a research area or academic discipline, nuclear and radiochemistry is considered a subarea of chemistry. Nuclear and radiochemists are chemists who hold one or more degrees in chemistry and have taken additional specialized courses and conducted laboratory work in nuclear and radiochemistry. They typically work in an organization’s chemistry department or division.
There is no listing for nuclear and radiochemists in the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system.1 Nuclear and radiochemists are part of the broader occupation of “chemists” (SOC code 19-2031), as are nuclear physicists part of the occupation of “physicists” (SOC code 19-2012). However, there is a classification for nuclear engineers (SOC code 17-2161), who, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “conduct research on nuclear engineering projects or apply principles and theory of nuclear science to problems concerned with release, control, and use of nuclear energy and nuclear waste disposal” (BLS 2010). Other broad categories that may include nuclear and radiochemists (especially at the bachelor’s degree level) are nuclear technicians (SOC code 19-4051), nuclear medicine technologists (SOC code 29-2033), and nuclear power plant operators (SOC code 51-8011).
For the purposes of this report, the committee defines individuals employed as nuclear and radiochemists as those who work on projects that apply the principles and theory of nuclear and radiochemistry in basic research and in applications including nuclear energy, medicine, weapons, and waste disposal.
At the same time, there has been a generally positive interest in applications of nuclear and radiochemistry. For example, another outcome of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 was the creation of the discipline of nuclear medicine in the use of radioisotopes to label molecules for research and development of radiopharmaceuticals for diagnostic imaging (most notably positron emission tomography) and therapy. As a result, the estimated number of radiological and nuclear medicine procedures performed in the United States to diagnose diseases such as cancer and heart disease grew
FIGURE 1-1 Milestones in Nuclear and Radiochemistry.
SOURCES: NRC 1988; Yates 1993; Peterson 1997; Argonne National Laboratory 2012; DOE/NSF 2004; DOE 2011a,b; EIA 2011a,b; Kentis 2011; Nobelprize.org 2012a,b,e; NSF 2011; SNM 2011; UC Berkeley 2012.
from approximately 25 million in 1950 to 395 million in 2006 (including mammographic examinations, but not dental radiographic exams) (Mettler et al. 2009).
Furthermore, despite the fact that nuclear power often receives negative press coverage and no new U.S. power plants have been built since the 1970s, nuclear energy has been a stable source of U.S. electricity since the 1980s, and in 2010 supplied approximately 20 percent of the U.S. total (EIA 2011a). In a March 2011 poll, 57 percent of Americans said they favor using nuclear power as a source of electricity even in the wake of the 2011 earthquake in Japan and its impacts on the Fukushima Daiichi power plant (Jones 2011).
Since the 1970s, reports have raised concerns about the state of the expertise pipeline in nuclear and radiochemistry skills, especially at the Ph.D. level. A steadily declining number of academic staff has resulted in a decrease in the number of both qualified U.S. citizens in the field and research programs at U.S. colleges and universities that produce experts in nuclear security, medicine, energy, environmental management, and basic research.
In 1978, the Committee on Training of Nuclear and Radiochemists—a committee of the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Division of Nuclear Chemistry and Technology (DNCT)—first noted a decline in nuclear and radiochemistry faculty and students in chemistry departments (ACS 1978), as indicated by the number of nuclear chemistry Ph.D.s reported in the National Science Foundation (NSF) annual Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED).1 Between 1960 (the first year nuclear chemistry appeared on the SED questionnaire) and 1971, the number of Ph.D.s awarded each year in nuclear chemistry in the United States grew from 13 to 36, but then fell back to 13 in 1978 and, 10 years later, 7 (NSF 2011).
One of the first initiatives to attract and retain undergraduate student interest in the field of nuclear and radiochemistry (a direct result of the ACS Committee on Training of Nuclear and Radiochemists recommendations) that still exists today is the Nuclear Chemistry Summer Schools program, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The program began in 1984, first hosted in the Nuclear Science Facility at San José State Univer-
sity (SJSU) and subsequently expanded to Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) (see Box 9-1) (Peterson 1997; Clark 2005; Kinard and Silber 2005).
Shortly thereafter, a National Research Council workshop report on Training Requirements for Chemists in Nuclear Medicine, Nuclear Industry, and Related Areas (NRC 1988) similarly noted the decline in chemistry expertise. The report called for remedial measures “to alleviate the serious shortage and to ensure a future adequate supply of scientists with nuclear and radiochemical backgrounds and knowledge” and recommended the following (NRC 1988, p.6):
1. Increase the coverage of nuclear and radiochemical concepts and techniques in undergraduate courses to provide chemists with a basic understanding of the field and its applications to science and technology.2
2. Establish Young Investigator Awards for tenure-track faculty at universities, with at least five such awards to be given, each for a 5-year period.
3. Establish training grants and postdoctoral fellowships.
4. Establish a small number of training centers at universities and/or national laboratories for short courses in nuclear and radiochemistry and for retraining scientists and technologists with backgrounds in other areas. Support for the training centers should come in part from the industries and enterprises that depend on the trained personnel.
5. Establish a second summer school in nuclear chemistry for undergraduates at an eastern U.S. site [to augment the DOE-funded SJSU program].3
6. Ensure adequate funding for research from the DOE, National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Defense (DOD), and other federal agencies to maintain the continued vigor of the field at universities and national laboratories. In particular, identify a specific program at NSF to receive proposals in the field of nuclear and radiochemistry.
2 The American Chemical Society (ACS) has a certification program for undergraduate degrees in chemistry. Requirements include coursework for students in the core areas of chemistry defined as analytical, bio-, inorganic, organic, and physical. Although nuclear chemistry is the fundamental basis of chemistry, it is not specified in the ACS certified degree requirements. For more information, see www.acs.org [accessed June 29, 2012].
3 In 1989 DOE established a second summer school for undergraduates at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York (Yates 1993).
More broadly, there has been concern about the supply of nuclear science and engineering expertise in general (NRC 1990). Because nuclear chemistry accounts for a relatively small portion of nuclear science and engineering degrees (Figure 1-2) it is more vulnerable to declines in the numbers of degree holders. In fact, by 2003 the number of nuclear chemistry Ph.D.s had dropped so low (to four) that the category was removed from the SED questionnaire the following year, making it difficult to continue tracking numbers of degree holders in this discipline.
Nuclear and radiochemistry needs cannot simply be filled by transfers from the larger groups of engineering and physics degree holders. Much of the chemistry involved in separating actinides, preparing reagents for nuclear medicine, and removing radioactive materials from the environment requires knowledge of synthetic, analytical, and other aspects of chemistry, informa-
FIGURE 1-2 Number of Ph.D.s per year in selected nuclear science and engineering disciplines, 1950–2007.
NOTE: Survey of Earned Doctorates stopped counting nuclear chemistry degrees after 2003.
SOURCE: NSF (2011).
tion that is well beyond the content of most doctoral programs in nuclear engineering or nuclear physics.
Furthermore, degrees in nuclear and radiochemistry are only a very small part of overall numbers in the field of chemistry (doctorates shown in Table 1-1), and, as with engineering and physics degree holders, expertise in this area cannot simply be filled in by the larger number of degree holders in chemistry, because most chemistry courses and laboratory work do not typically include the specialized knowledge in nuclear reactions and decay modes, chemical reactions and chemical properties of radioactive elements and isotopes, or radiolytic processes caused by ionizing radiation produced by nuclear processes.
Chemistry was included in a report of the DOE/NSF Nuclear Science Advisory Committee, Education in Nuclear Science (DOE/NSF 2004), with the following recommendations to the DOE, NSF, and larger nuclear science community:
1. Outreach: Create a Center for Nuclear Science Outreach (highest priority).
2. Ph.D. Production: Increase the number of new Ph.D.s in nuclear science by 20 percent over the next 5–10 years.
TABLE 1-1 Trend Data from 2009 National Science Foundation Survey of Earned Doctorates for the Field of Chemistry and Its Associated Subfields
|Doctorate recipients, by subfield of study: 1999–2009|
Subfield of studya
ABBREVIATIONS: na, not applicable (the field was not on the questionnaire’s specialties list for that year).
a Field groupings may differ from those in reports published by federal sponsors of the Survey of Earned Doctorates.
b This field was removed from the taxonomy in 2007. Graduates who indicated this field in 2007 are represented in the counts for Chemistry, other.
SOURCE: Adapted from NSF (2010), Table 14.
3. Diversity and Professional Development: Enhance participation of women and people of underrepresented backgrounds.
4. Undergraduate Education:
• Establish a third summer school for nuclear chemistry modeled after the two existing schools;
• Establish a community-developed recognition award for mentoring; and
• Establish an online nuclear science instructional materials database;
5. Graduate and Postdoctoral Training:
• Establish graduate education and postdoctoral training;
• Shorten the median time to a Ph.D. degree;
• Develop graduate fellowships in physical sciences (including nuclear science) (this is an endorsement of Secretary of Energy Advisory Board 2003 recommendation);
• Establish new training grant opportunities; and
• Establish prestigious postdoctoral fellowships with funding from NSF and DOE.
Since 2008, new efforts have been launched to increase the number of students in nuclear science and engineering in general. For example, DOE created the Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) (DOE 2011c), which provides funding for both research and student scholarships and fellowships at U.S. colleges and universities. NEUP is aimed mainly at nuclear engineering, but awards are open to students in nuclear-related fields, which include radiochemistry, health physics, nuclear physics, and other fields of engineering. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) has been leading a joint effort with DOE, DOD, and others to support the nuclear science expertise pipeline and provide a stable foundation to cultivate and maintain a highly qualified technical nuclear forensics (TNF) workforce, which has a larger chemistry component than NEUP (Kentis 2011).
These recent efforts, together with programs begun in the 1980s, appear to be having a positive effect in bolstering the current and future availability of expertise, as will be discussed later in the report. However, many questions remain and need to be addressed, and will be the focus of this report as outlined below.4
4 For more information, see Appendix A: Statement of Task.
• What are the characteristics of nuclear and radiochemistry experts? (Chapter 2)
• What is the current and future supply of and demand for nuclear and radiochemistry expertise (summarized in Chapter 8)—
in general? (Chapter 2)
in academic basic research and education? (Chapter 3)
in nuclear medicine? (Chapter 4)
in nuclear energy and power generation? (Chapter 5)
in nuclear security? (Chapter 6)
in environmental management? (Chapter 7)
• What is being done to ensure the supply of U.S. nuclear and radiochemistry expertise, and what are the ways to sustain or increase this supply in the future? (Chapter 9)
Chapters 1, 2, 3, 8, and 9 look at nuclear and radiochemistry expertise more broadly than Chapters 4 through 7, which provide more detailed assessments of specific nuclear and radiochemistry application areas. Each chapter ends with findings, which are the basis of the committee’s overall recommendations presented in Chapter 10.
This report answers these questions by building on past efforts to assess needs in nuclear and radiochemistry and nuclear science and engineering more broadly, and by providing new insights on the unique needs and trends for nuclear and radiochemistry.
To accomplish its task, the committee collected new information from guest speakers (Appendix C), databases, websites, and other published information sources to determine current and likely future supplies of nuclear and radiochemistry experts. The committee surveyed members of professional organizations serving the nuclear/radiochemistry community to determine the demand for experts, and contacted representatives of industry, the national laboratories, and universities. Based on analysis of the resulting information, the committee formulated steps to be taken now and in the future to ensure a sustainable supply of U.S. nuclear and radiochemistry expertise.
The committee found the objectives outlined in the statement of task difficult to meet for a number of reasons that are highlighted in this chapter and throughout the report. The members therefore had to seek alternate sources of information and extrapolate from limited data to understand employment
supply and demand for expertise in this discipline. In summary, three major data limitations shaped the committee’s work in this study:
1. Employment classification: Because nuclear and radiochemists are not classified by the SOC, the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track employment or make projections in these areas. They are treated as a part of the broader occupation of chemists, nuclear technicians, nuclear medicine technologists, or nuclear power plant operators.
2. Licenses or certifications: There are no licenses or certifications required for nuclear and radiochemists, and ACS accreditation of chemistry departments does not have any specific provisions for nuclear chemistry content. As a result, the occupation is defined differently in different sectors and application areas. For the most part, nuclear and radiochemists are self-identified.
3. Degrees: Educational degrees are not specifically granted in nuclear and radiochemistry at the bachelor’s or master’s level. Ph.D.s in nuclear chemistry were captured by the SED in the past, but NSF removed the category from its questionnaire in 2004. The Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR) is not useful because it is a sample survey of current Ph.D.s, and the number of nuclear chemists (if they can be identified) is too small for meaningful analysis. The Higher Education General Information Survey (HEGIS) and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) conducted by the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) are not helpful because there is no designation for nuclear and radiochemistry in the Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) values on which the surveys are based.
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