Handbook of Nuclear Chemistry: Vol. 1: Basics of Nuclear Science; Vol. 2: Elements and Isotopes: Formation, Transformation, Distribution; Vol. 3: … Nuclear Energy Production and Safety Issues
In the twentieth century, 57Nobel Prizes honored the chemical and physical results achieved by theoreticians and experimenters who can be rightly called nuclear scientists. This number alone proves that nuclear science was recognized as one of the most powerful engines pushing science to new heights in the past century, often referred to as the Nuclear Age.
It is interesting to mention that until the middle of the twentieth century, the ratio of Nobel Prizes that honored nuclear results was 2:1 for physics and chemistry.However, after 1950, only two chemical results were awarded by this prize: E. M. McMillan and G. T. Seaborg for the production of 93Np and 94Pu in 1951, and W. F. Libby for working out the 14C age determination in archeology and geophysics in 1960. R.S. Yalow was honored by the Nobel Prize in 1977 for a medical result. She developed the radioimmunoassays of peptide hormones. All other Nobel Prizes for nuclear results were awarded in the field of physics. The Nobel Prizes achieved by nuclear scientists are listed in >Table 1.
A correlation between the period of the research work and the date of the award is demonstrated in >Fig. 1.
One needs little imagination to foretell that the flagships of science will be informatics and biology in the twenty-first century. Nevertheless, there are many signs making us firmly believe that nuclear science will remain important in the future as well, in spite of the antinuclear sentiments caused by the unfortunate Chernobyl accident in 1986. Radiopharmaceutical chemistry is stimulating biomedical research and nuclear medicine (diagnosis and therapy). The development of particle physics keeps its dynamism as demonstrated by the Nobel Prizes awarded in this century (2002, 2004, and 2008.)
There are well-supported opinions that nuclear fission and fusion will be among the important sources of energy in the twenty-first century. We cite George A. Olah who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his contributions to carbocation chemistry in 1994. He wrote (Olah GA (1998) Oil and hydrocarbons in the 21st century. In: Barkan P (ed) Chemical research 2000 and beyond. Amer Chem Soc, Washington, DC/OUP, New York, pp 40–54):
” Generating energy by burning non-renewable fossil fuels including oil, gas and coal is feasible only for the relatively short future and even so, faces serious environmental problems. The advent of the atomic age opened up a wonderful new possibility, but also created dangers and concerns of safety. I feel that it is tragic that the latter considerations practically brought further development of atomic energy to a stand still at least in most of the Western world. Whether we like it or not we have in the long run no alternative but to rely increasingly on clean atomic energy, but we must solve safety problems including those of disposal and storage of radioactive waste products. Pointing out difficulties and hazards as well as regulating them (within reason) is necessary. Finding solutions to overcome them, however, is essential. (Olah 1998, pp 40–54)
The editors of this handbook hope that this work contributes to the activity of a research field that helps us to learn more and more about nature and will remain dynamic for a long time.
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