Nuclear chemistry has a long history: Curie, Soddy, Hahn, and Seaborg were awarded Nobel Prizes for their work. However, the number of universities that are teaching radiochemistry and have chairs in the subject has decreased, and the coverage of nuclear and radiochemistry at universities varies strongly between institutions, and ranges from comprehensive modules to nothing at all.
In his editorial in Angewandte Chemie, Clemens Walther, University of Hanover, Germany, looks at the causes for the decline in radiochemistry education. He explains that radiochemistry is not just related to nuclear power, which can be a controversial topic, and that expensive teaching facilities are required. Radiochemistry is needed for life sciences (radiopharmaceuticals and radiodiagnostics), geosciences (radiocarbon dating), and radioecology. It is in particular demand for the management of radioactive waste.
According to a survey of EU member states, the countries that have strong nuclear industries also have more institutions that offer training in nuclear chemistry. France has ten institutions and a strong network between universities. In contrast, the UK has only four universities that offer radiochemistry courses, which is somewhat of an anomaly given the large number of nuclear applications. In Germany, the need for radiation protection officers is increasing and there is no shortage of jobs for suitably qualified individuals. However, the lack of available training means that the country is facing a shortage of specialists, and this situation needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
- The Active Field of Nuclear and Radiochemistry: Not Just Nuclear Power,
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2016.