Atomic energy now popularly called nuclear energy became the shining star in the scientific community in the early part of 20th century. The possible presence of huge energy reservoir within atom became even more apparent by the large kinetic energy of the particles emitted in radioactive decay and the resultant large production of heat.
Rutherford called attention to the heat produced in the decay of radium by saying that the enormous heat that emitted compared to any other chemical reaction must have enormous stores of energy which gets released by disintegration of the atoms. Rutherford had no idea to the source of this energy but the quantity of the huge energies were slowly put on a more quantitative manner with information regarding the mass of atom till the fission discovery in 1938. The discovery of neutrons in 1932 and series of experiments by Fermi in 1930’s to understand the interactions between neutrons and nuclei eventually led to discovery of fission.
Energy takes on various forms which are classified as per the type of force that is acting. The water falling on the turbine fans in hydroelectric power generation units experiences the gravitational force, transforms into mechanical energy during the rotation in turbine, which then gets converted to electric energy by the generator. Due to electric potential difference which allows the force to move through charged particles to electrical network and get utilised at local level to light up bulbs, thermal energy for heater and chemical energy for batteries. The nuclear energy is utilized in same format and with the increasing demand of energy and depleting resources of petroleum and natural gas along with problems in harnessing water resources, the use of nuclear fuels became the buzz word in power sector.
The construction and future plans for new nuclear power plants continue worldwide despite the eminent threat of radiation and accidents like Fukushima this sector of power generation is looking ahead as there is no alternative and moreover, this is the only alternative to organic fuels, combat global warming, provide hydrogen for future transport system, and support desalination. This also provide solution to different variants of malignant diseases and other industrial level precision technology.
is mainly used for power generation but with new avenues opening up for utilising this technology in other fields, the scientific community is steadily opening up new frontiers in industrial uses and medicines that are precise and more potent in combating new variants of disease, especially malignancy.
Apart from the usual uses that we get to see now the future plan for producing hydrogen and utilising in transport sector on a large scale. The future is a juxtaposition between revival of nuclear power but with lot of regulatory authorities in place and radiation threat. The nest frontier definitely is to find a permanent solution to the nuclear waste management and fusion reactors.
Till now we are witnessing only the fission type nuclear power generation but future lies in what takes place inside the Sun’s core.
Fusion reactors can help overcome the problem of nuclear waste and produce enormous energy which will help fight back the global warming and relegate the organic fuels to subsidiary level.
Nuclear energy in medicine is relatively new but has made path breaking technical advances in last few years.
- Nuclear medicine field has utilised the X rays to kill cancerous cells and radiography basically is carried out by gamma rays.
- In bio science the radiation is mainly used for sterilization and help in enhancement of mutations
- Nuclear radiation is used for sterilizing medical hardware used in precision operations
- Radiation is also used for sterilizing food materials in food industries
- Radiation along with radioisotopes are used for various diagnosis and therapy in many critical medical conditions
- Radio pharmaceuticals are now regularly used for both diagnostic purpose and doses of radioactive units which are then scanned and studied under tomography
- Radioisotopes are also used for radio immune assays utilized mainly for biochemical analysis in laboratories
- Radioisotopes are also used to detect very low level of hepatitis virus, hormone imbalances and enzyme action along with drugs in blood sample
- Wide usage of radioisotope technetium 99m which has a half-life of six hours in tracing tumours, level of blood circulation, structure of bones, condition of liver and kidneys and stages of lung infection. This radioisotope is used as it is less discomforting to patients and has a very low radiation effect
- Use of Cobalt 60 as an external beam radiotherapy for treatment of cancer is common and has been in vogue for over 60 years. Cobalt 60 has a very short half-life which makes it an idea weapon against malignant cells.
The role of radioisotope is very important in detection of pollutants and analyse these for further studies. This is possible as the decay period of isotopes is very short and that also makes sure that is no residual matter remains in environment.
- As mentioned above the radioisotopes are used as environment tracing elements. These techniques are applied to a wide range of problems related to air, solid waste and water pollution like atmospherical SO2 accumulation, formation of smog, oil spill problems, and sewage disposal
- These are also used as industrial tracing elements as these materials have the ability to detect radioactivity in a very minute details
- Tracers in low amount could be used in lubricating oils to identify the wear and tear level of engines
- To identify and stop leakages in various industrial units, it’s a norm to use small volumes of radioactive tracers in either in form of powder, gas or liquid
- Precision instruments are measured and made to order by using gamma sources where the gauges could be used in boiler, heat transfer units or where the molten matter flows through and units which are prone to corrosion and direct Manuka handling is not possible
- Density of materials are also managed by applying the automatic controllers managed by nuclear radioactive materials
- Radioactive dating used for identifying age of materials is already in vogue
- Identifying cracks or proper fixing of oil pipelines in remote places is possible by using portable gamma radiation devices
- The emission of energy during decay of radioactive substances like Plutonium 238 is utilized as a source of energy and most importantly these are used in deep space probes like Cassini
The peaceful use of nuclear energy is not only essential but has to be implemented worldwide as on one hand this energy could provide the solution to our ever growing need of power and energy but also needs to be seen from the changes happening in geopolitical arena.
- Used for power harnessing
- Used for medical device and therapy
- Used for industrial precision instruments
- Used for providing technical edge in future transport systems
- Used for nuclear watch to provide the perfect timing devices
- Used for providing solutions to our ever growing need of disposal methods
Use of nuclear energy got a set back after a series of accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima but with the scarcity of organic fuels and non-availability of alternative energy sources in large quantity is slowly reviving the nuclear power.
These are clean and a perfect answer to reduce global warming. They have everything in favour as cutting edge medicines and therapy are all nuclear based. The ultimate source of energy Sun is nothing a huge ball of fusion reaction fire and hence the advantages are immense if used safely and with sanity.