Research on the History of Iranian Nuclear Threat
The history of nuclear energy has its roots with the Ancient Greek philosophers who first developed the concept that all matter consists of invisible particles known as atoms. The concept was developed further by 18th and 19th century scientist. In 1789, German chemist Martin Klaproth discovered uranium, naming it after planet Uranus. In 1895, Wilhelm Rontgen discovered Ionizing radiation by passing electric current via an evacuated glass tube to produce continuous X-rays. Henri Becquerel found an ore containing uranium and radium (pitchblende) in 1896. Gamma rays were soon thereafter discovered in the pitchblende by Villard. Samuel Prescott demonstrated in 1898 the ability of radiation to destroy bacteria in food,
By 1900, physicists has an understanding that atoms contained large amounts of energy. Ernest Rutherford, a British physicist became to be referred to as ‘the father of nuclear science’ following his major contribution and development of the theory of atomic structure. Through his famous mathematical formula, E=mc2, Albert Einsten developed the theory explaining the correlation between mass and energy in 1905.
In 1934, physicist Enrico Fermi first discovered the capability of nuclear fusion through his experiment in which he reacted uranium atoms with neutrons to realize products much lighter than uranium. In 1942, he performed the world’s first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear reaction with uranium and control rods in the same way they are done today. The power and potential of the new technology was demonstrated in July 1945 when the United Stated performed its first nuclear bomb test in the New Mexico desert.
An increasing number of nuclear plants started to emerge in the 1950s and 1960s as safe, clean alternative to traditional energy practices. This was mainly due to the fact that a fission of a single uranium atom has the ability to produce amount of energy that is approximately 10 million times the amount realized from the combustion of a single atom of coal.
Rapid technological growth has seen nuclear technology become increasingly adopted in nuclear reactors, smoke detectors, gun sights and nuclear weapons. In the food and agricultural field, radioisotopes and radiation are utilized to provide food to save the millions of people around the world who are chronically malnourished and many others who die daily from hunger or hunger-related causes. To ensure sustainable agriculture, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) together with the IAEA work on programs towards achieving food sustainability with the help of nuclear and related biotechnologies.
Through the technology, developing and developed countries are producing fertilizers with minimum damage to the environment. The particular isotope in the fertilizers are indicated to inform farmers on how much the plant takes up and how much is lost, thus enabling better management of the fertilizer application. For several decades now, ionizing radiation to trigger mutation in plant breeding has been utilized, resulting in development of more than 1800 new crop varieties. Neutron or gamma radiation is usually used along with other techniques for the production of new genetic types of root and tuber crops, oil seed and cereal crops. Also, new and more resistant types of garlic, wheat, sorghum, beans, and peppers has been possible through nuclear technology. In Mali, for example, irradiation of rice and sorghum seeds that are more productive and marketable is a major activity.
With the growing resistance of insects and pests to chemical insecticides and pesticides along with the health danger of the fungicides, nuclear technology is increasingly been utilized in insect control. Sterile Insect Technique SIT), for example, entails the rearing of large numbers of insects whose eggs are then irradiated with gamma radiation prior to hatching in order to sterilize them. These sterile males are subsequently released in plenty in the infested area, where they mate with female insects but produce no offspring. This serves to control the population on insect pests as has been the case in Argentina, Mexico, northern Chile, South America and Africa (World Nuclear Association, 2013). New aggressive SIT programs are currently being implemented in many countries by the IAEA, the FAO, and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Nuclear technologies are also being used to reduce food spoilage as a result of microbial or pest infestation and contamination especially in humid and hot climates. Use of irradiation technology is increasing to preserve such foods as grains, spices, fruits, vegetables and meat. A joint committee of the World Health Organization, FAO and IAEA adopted a universal standard in 1983. Increase adoption of food irradiation is also due to growing concerns over food-borne diseases and increasing international trade in foodstuffs that need to meet high standards of quality. Irradiation is also used to preserve food during space mission. Food irradiation is completely safe as it does not make the food radioactive.
The need of sustainable supply of good water for humans, animals, plants and human activities has also seen increasing adoption of nuclear technologies. Isotope hydrology techniques are used for accurate tracing as well as measurement of the amount of underground water resources. These techniques offer significant analytical tools for managing and conserving existing supplies of water. They are also useful in identifying new, renewable sources of water which enable planning and sustainable management of water resources around the world. The technologies also detect leakages in dams and irrigation channels, flow rates, dynamics of reservoirs and lakes, rivers discharges as well as sedimentation rates. Neutron probes are being utilized to accurately measure soil moisture that enable better management of land highly affected by salinity, especially as relates to irrigation.
In the field of medicine, radiation and radioisotopes are increasingly used for identification/diagnosis and treatment/therapy of a wide range of medical conditions. Particularly in the developed world, which represent about a quarter of the total world population), the frequency of diagnostic nuclear medicine is estimated to be 1.9% of its population per year, while the frequency of therapy utilizing radioisotopes is almost one tenth of this. Across the world, over 10,000 hospitals are estimated to be currently using radioisotopes in medicine, with the USA recording 18 million nuclear medicine operations each year for its about 311 million people and about 10 million procedures in Europe’s 500 million population. The adoption of radiopharmaceuticals in diagnosis is growing at a rapid rate of over 10% per year.
As environmental tracers, radioisotopes are increasingly used to detect and analyze pollutants considering very small amount of radioisotope are easily detectable and decayed isotopes do not form residues in the environment. As such, nuclear technologies are being adopted in such pollution problems as smog formation, sulphur dioxide contamination, and sewage dispersal from oil spills and ocean outfalls. Radioisotopes are also being used as industrial tracers in processes such mixing and flow rates of a range of materials e.g. powders, gases, and liquids to locate leaks. They are also added to lubricating oil to assist in measuring the rate of wear of plant and engines and equipment. The tracer techniques help in checking performance of equipment and subsequently improve their efficiency that lead to significant savings in energy costs and better utilization of raw materials.
Nuclear technologies are also applicable in instruments such gauges that contain radioactive sources that help in checking levels of gases, liquids and solids. These gauges are crucial where heat, pressure, and corrosive substances e.g. molten metal or molten glass, render it difficult or impossible to use direct contact gauges. Radioisotope thickness gauges are thus utilized to make continuous sheets of materials such as paper, metal, plastic film, etc., when it is necessary to avoid direct contact between the material and the gauge. Density gauges are utilize where the automatic control of powder, liquid or solid is imports e.g. in detergent manufacture. Radioisotopes that emit gamma rays are relatively portable relative to x-rays machines and give higher-energy radiation used in checking welds of new gas or oil pipeline systems.
Other forms of radiography based on different principles such as neutron radiography or autoradiography are used to locate components not visible via other means or measure the density and thickness of materials. Decaying radioisotopes that emit a lot of energy are harnessed to power navigation satellites and beacons as well as for heart pacemakers. The US, for example, uses the decay heat of plutonium 238 to power the Cassini space probe to Saturn and the rover Curiosity to Mars
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