Current situation

Nuclear- and radiochemistry (NRC) contains key knowledge and techniques needed by a modern society and is certainly needed in addressing many of the societal challenges defined in the HORIZON 2020 EU Framework Programme, namely, (a) health; (b) secure, clean and efficient energy and (c) food security. Within nuclear medicine diagnostic tools such as PET and SPECT imaging heavily rely on radiochemistry for preparing radionuclide loaded highly specific biomarkers. Radiotherapy profits strongly from development of cancer-seeking molecules armed with alpha- or beta-emitting radioisotopes which is only possible with NRC. Nuclear energy will play a role as a low carbon emission technique in many European countries for decades to come, relying on NRC in all stages of present and future fuel cycles. When using (geo)hydrothermal energy radionuclides accumulate in scales in pipes and filters, requiring NRC methods for radiation protection to reduce risks to workers. Further areas where nuclear and radiochemistry are of key importance include nuclear forensics, counteraction of proliferation issues and preparation for handling release of radionuclides (caused by e.g. accidents or terror attacks). Food safety includes radioecological assessment of risks from man-made and also natural radionuclides entering the food chain, e.g. using phosphate fertilizer, which often contain considerable amounts of uranium and radium or production of drinking water from deep wells with high uranium and radium contents. Further fields making use of NRC include dating applications in geology and archeology, ecology, and basic research such as investigation of super heavy elements. Some of these are discussed in more detail below:

Nuclear Medicine: The growing need of radiopharmaceuticals both for diagnostic and therapeutic use, as well as for drug development makes radiopharmaceutical chemistry one of the largest growing fields in nuclear and radiochemistry. The end-users in this field include both industry and research units developing the radiolabeled compounds as well as the hospitals and institutes that utilize them in clinical work or in biomedical or drug research. The radiochemist is a key scientist for developing the novel and tailored radiolabeled molecules that are needed to solve medical problems.

Nuclear Energy: The safe management of nuclear fuels is an important element for sustainable nuclear energy production. Actinide chemistry is necessary to understand and control industrial developments in the mining of raw materials, fabrication of nuclear fuel and control in nuclear power reactors. In addition medium and long-term management of spent nuclear fuel i) as waste (open fuel cycle) or ii) as a reusable material (closed fuel cycle) by proposing a reasoned management of highly radioactive waste involve detailed knowledge of actinide chemistry. This fundamental knowledge of NRC is therefore essential to mastering all aspects of the fuel cycle.

Safety and security issues: Man-made or natural radionuclides that for whatever reason have entered or accumulated in our environment need to be identified and quantified. This task requires both chemical knowledge and an intimate understanding of nuclear properties and chemical behavior, for example the knowledge and expertise of a radiochemist, in particular her/his knowledge of radioanalytical methods. This area includes what popularly has been known as "nuclear forensics" and "non-proliferation".

However, many people's perception of anything nuclear is negative or at least they are skeptical. The atomic bombing of Japan in WWII, the threat of nuclear holocaust through decades of Cold War, severe accidents in civil reactors and general fear of invisible, cancer-inducing radiation makes such feelings easy to understand, preventing useful exploration of nuclear techniques that are beneficial to society. To address challenges of maintaining competence in NRC and to counteract the negative perception of the nuclear field, the project proposed aims to enhance people's general awareness of the required and beneficial use of nuclear and radiochemistry techniques and methods. In particular, it is important to persuade a larger fraction of students to select an education within nuclear and radiochemistry, as there is a clear deficiency of candidates with such knowledge. With this background it's of utmost importance to develop and perform high quality NRC teaching and training according to the needs of research institutions, industry, hospitals, and other end-users. The requirements and demands from end-users have already been surveyed in our previous projects CINCH and CINCH-II (described in further detail later). However, MEET-CINCH will seek direct contact with and input from the above mentioned groups in order to take into account their special needs in the material produced in MEET-CINCH. Workshops will be organized to bring together scientists and end-users to both gather such knowledge and communicate our findings. In addition, MEET-CINCH will invite representatives of these groups to join its End-users and Advisory Group. In particular, for the nuclear medicine field that was not the main focus of the survey in CINCH-II, detailed information on current training needs will be collected from the end-users both at hospitals and industry. The European Association of Nuclear Medicine (EANM) will also be contacted in order to survey mutual interests in education and training.