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January 5th, 2016

Zoe Gibson
Larkin/Period 3

Nuclear Chemistry Research Paper

When Henri Becquerel discovered radioactivity in 1896, he opened many doors of

opportunities for a branch of science that scientists refer to as nuclear chemistry today. Marie
Curie, Pierre Curie, and Ernest Rutherford all contributed immensely to further expand the
realm of the study of the chemistry of the nucleus of an atom. Nuclear chemistry is a vast
and very important branch of science that offers a solution, in a less expensive way, to our
energy needs, according to an article published by the Nassau Community College. One
angle of nuclear chemistry is to harness the energy that is necessary for countless aspects of
our life. The other angle is to transmute elements: to create a new element derived from a
preexisting element. This angle can also be tied to alchemy. Nuclear chemistry has many
angles and sides that can be scrutinized and broken down.
Radiation is energy that comes from a source and travels through space and may be
able to penetrate various materials. (What Is Radiation?) There are two types of radiation.
Nonionizing radiation can be found in light, radio, and microwave energy waves. This type of
radiation is typically non harmful. However, ionizing radiation, found in unstable atoms and
high voltage devices, can be extremely harmful due to the amount of excess energy or mass
or an overabundance of the two. Unstable atoms, or ionized radiation is referred to as
radioactive. Trying to reach a stable state, the unstable atoms emit extra energy and mass.
This excess energy is called radiation. Radiation waves can be extremely dangerous and
deadly. Depending on the amount of radiation someone is exposed to, the effects worsen.
Scientists measure radiation by using a unit called rem. If a person is exposed to 10 rem,
their short term blood cell count decreases. 100 rem will cause nausea and fatigue. 200 rem
will cause nausea and vomiting. 300 rem will cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of hair,
loss of appetite, and possible death. 500 rem and above is fatal. These effects are only
accurate if the radiation was distributed throughout your body. Direct doses of radiation to
certain parts of your body are arguably more gruesome. 40 rem directed to the eyes can cause
cataracts. 100 rem can cause hair loss. 200 rem can burn your skin. 1000 rem to the torso can
breakdown the intestinal lining, leading to internal bleeding and ultimate death. 1500 rem to
the skin can cause burns and blistering to the skin and death. Radiation not only affects the
human body, but the environment. The water supply for entire cities can be tainted, in
addition to crops and the ground. These effects and other ones can throw the entire system of
countries off kilter and it can take many, many years to fix.
However, better things can be accomplished in relation to nuclear chemistry.
According to RadiologyInfo.org, Nuclear Medicine is a branch of medical imaging that uses
small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose and determine the severity of or treat a
variety of diseases. This type of medical procedure is able to pin molecular activity and able
to identify disease in its earliest stages. Nuclear medicine has the ability to heal many types
of cancer, heart disease, neurological disorders, endocrine, gastrointestinal, and many other
abnormalities within the body. There are many more advantages to this method of treatment.
In addition to diagnosing harmful diseases, nuclear medicine ensures that physicians perform
their responsibility in treating their patients and clients and the x-rays of nuclear medicine can
scan the most sensitive parts of the body. However, there are drawbacks to this type of
treatment such as the ghastly expense of nuclear medicinal facilities/equipment needed and
the possibility that patients can be exposed to mild radiation. With the good must come some

evil. Nuclear medicine is an application of nuclear chemistry that provides more alternatives
to current methods of treatment.
In addition to nuclear medicine, nuclear energy is another application of nuclear
chemistry. Nuclear energy is defined as the energy released by a nuclear reaction, especially
by fission or fusion. [This form of energy] uses fuel made from mined and processed uranium
to make steam and generate electricity. (What is Nuclear Energy, Emirates Nuclear Energy
Corporation) Unfortunately, there are disadvantages to this type of energy. Nuclear fuels are
nonrenewable energy resources and nuclear waste can remain hazardous and radioactive to
the Earth for centuries afterwards. But there are many advantages to nuclear energy. It
produces large amounts of electricity and power, or baseload power, without releasing
greenhouse gases. Nuclear energy also has the lowest environmental impact on land and on
natural resources than any other source of electricity. Nuclear energy, including power plants
and fission, is another aspect of nuclear chemistry that provides a service to the world.
A rather controversial facet of nuclear chemistry would be nuclear weapons. Nuclear
powers stockpile nuclear weapons to deter other nations from attacking them with chemical,
biological, nuclear, or conventional weapons. Nuclear weapons are defined as an explosive
device that converts matter into energy. (Nuclear Weapons Primer, Nuclear
Reduction/Disarmament Initiative) There are two types of nuclear weapons: atomic bombs
and hydrogen bombs. Hydrogen, or thermonuclear, bombs are the more powerful of the
two, made by merging two hydrogen atoms into helium. An atomic bomb is devised by
splitting plutonium, or enriched uranium, atoms. Nuclear weapons are very costly and
difficult to maintain, they compel people to question the lack of morals behind the operations,
and they cause impossible damage to the environment and to human lives. On the other hand,
nuclear weapons offer global defense, a deterrent to war, and a supply of power.
Many consumer products utilize nuclear chemistry, including smoke detectors,
emergency exit signs, explosive detecting devices, and industrial equipment. Industries often
use radioactive materials to improve upon the safety and productivity of their products.
Nuclear chemistry can also be found elsewhere in the everyday life: agriculture.
Nuclear chemistry and radiation can help the measurement of soil moisture content, the
efficiency of fertilizer uptake, and the rate of erosion. Radioactive materials can control
insect pests, preserve food/extend the shelf life of food products, and improve food crops.
According to Nuclear Energy in Everyday Life, published by the Department of Energy of the
Republic of South Africa, Radioisotopes assist in enhancing food production. One method is
the control of insects, including the control of screw worms, fruit flies and tsetse flies, is
through the Sterile Insect Technique. The tsetse fly causes the transmission of a parasitic
disease, trypanosomiasis, which slowly destroys livestock herds in sub Saharan Africa. It also
causes the spread of the human form of the disease, known as sleeping sickness. Diseases
transmitted by tsetse flies kill over 250,000 people per year. That is one example of how
nuclear chemistry and radiation can be used in everyday life to save lives and fix problems.
Radioactive tracer radioactive molecule that can be sent through the body's circulatory
or urinary system, with its progress followed by a radiation-sensitive machine.