Prospects for Academic Nuclear and Radiochemistry

Andreas Kronenberg, Gregory R. Choppin

Los Alamos National Laboratory, Isotope& Nuclear Chemistry Division, Los Alamos, NM 87545

Florida State University, Department of Chemistry, Tallahassee, FL 32306-4390


After 1980 there has been a steady decrease in the number of university chemistry department offering graduate study in nuclear/radiochemisty and in the number of Ph.D. graduates per year in this field. The need for such scientists is discussed as is the growing severity of the supply/demand problem. Since this problem exists worldwide, it is not possible to import such skills. The result could be major decreased activities in nuclear medicine, the nuclear power industry and the US Department of Energy programs.

If no immediate actions are taken to preserve a viable research force and to encourage young scientists to engage in nuclear and radiochemistry, the subject may be a forgotten topic in many countries within a few years. Distant learning modules could be a part of the way to overcome the dilemma, even if radiochemistry is a practical science, needing extensive experience with laboratory work. To create interest in students, attractive web pages are needed, where nuclear and radiochemistry is described as a modern, very active science connect to other scientific fields, like engineering, life science and space exploration, and nuclear energy.

Examples for developing fields such as nuclear non-proliferation, Generation IV of nuclear power, nuclear fuel reprocessing, transmutation of nuclear waste, remediate of contaminated sites (Rocky Flats, Hanford), handling and storage of weapon-grade material, are discussed. The aim is to give upper-level undergraduates experience in scientific research and an introduction to a number of currently exciting scientific topics.  It has proven to be a very important to help to guide students in their graduate education.

The implementation of laboratory instruction in handling radioactive substances for chemistry students is also discussed. Radiation safety courses for students of other disciplines, like biology and physics, can also serve to reduce public concern about the dangers of radioactivity.