Discovery of X-rays and Radioactivity: Ukrainian Contribution, World Heritage

Did scientists guess, when they discovered radioactive elements, what this could lead to in the future?

The discovery of radioactivity has brought many benefits to mankind. The study of atomic nucleus decay processes is important not only for practical purposes in energy, medicine, up- to-date technologies, but also for understanding the secrets of even deeper levels of Universe structure: properties of neutrinos, confirmation of the existence of some hypothetical particles, nature of dark matter, etc.

Along with the benefits, the discovery of artificial radioactive isotopes has also brought considerable harm to mankind. After the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the perception of atomic energy has changed, and not for the better. The David Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” speech in 1953 resulted in establishing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). However, this did not stop the arms race, as well as the formation of the nuclear club.

Who really was at the origins, what is the role of Ukrainian scientists and not only this is presented in the  today’s material from the editors of the website.

Discovery of X-rays: Puliui, Roentgen

In 1875, Ivan Puliui, a native of the Ternopil region, and Wilhelm Roentgen, a German by birth, crossed paths. Together they worked in the laboratory of the University of Strasbourg under the guidance of Professor August Kundt. Being peers, Puliui and Roentgen did not become friends, although after Strasbourg they periodically exchanged letters, in which they shared the results of their research. Ivan Puliui was interested in the processes associated with X-rays at the atomic and molecular level. Roentgen was well aware of the Puliui’s lamp, thanks to which these rays, invisible to the human eye, could be seen.

On 8 November 1895, Wilhelm Roentgen stayed late in the laboratory at the University of Würzburg. The scientist noticed that the photographic materials lying next to the Gittorf tube, packed in opaque paper, turned out to be inexplicably exposed. An ordinary person would have thrown them away, but Roentgen wanted to find out the cause of the unexplained phenomenon. He realized that the vacuum tubes really emanate invisible rays. For seven weeks, almost alone, the scientist studied their effect. Thus, on 28 December 1895, he made the first report on his discovery before the Würzburg Physical and Mathematical Society.

You can learn about the reaction of Ivan Puliui from the memoirs of his son: “… Father read the news about the discovery of Roentgen, lying in bed. Getting out of bed and clasping his head in his hands, he continually exclaimed: “My lamp! My lamp! He sent Roentgen a letter asking him to answer whether his lamp was used in the experiments. However, he never received an answer. When Roentgen was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1901, he avoided explaining the nature of his discovery in every possible way.

Why did Roentgen and not Puliui get the Nobel Prize? … As already mentioned, the formal reason for this was that the German physicist was the first to publish information about the discovery of rays. However, outstanding physicist, famous Albert Einstein, answered this question most accurately in communication with Ivan Puliui: “What happened cannot be changed. Let satisfaction remain with you that you have made your contribution in the landmark discovery. Is this not enough? Everything has logic, honestly. Who is behind you, Rusyns, what culture, what actions? It’s a shame for you to listen to this, but where can you get away from your fate? The whole of Europe is behind Roentgen.” Puliui replied: “What is supposed to happen will happen and what happens will be the best, because everything is the will of God”.

Discovery of Radioactive Elements: Becquerel, the Curies and Others

After the discovery of X-rays, French mathematician Henri Poincare put forward the hypothesis that the emission of these rays is associated with fluorescence. Testing this assumption, French physicist Antoine Becquerel started a series of experiments with zinc sulfide and calcium sulfide using the same method. All of them were unsuccessful. That is why, Becquerel decided to test the Poincare hypothesis, using the most strongly phosphorescent materials – uranium salts. As a result, on 1 March 1896, the scientist found that photographic plates isolated from the action of light, which are in contact with uranium salts, are exposed. Traditionally, this date is considered the discovery of radioactivity. It is interesting to note that this phenomenon was reported in 1858 and 1867 by French inventors Joseph Niepce and Abel Niepce de Saint-Victor, respectively. However, their observations did not become a discovery and were forgotten.

Image of the Becquerel’s photographic plate, which was exposed to the radiation of uranium salts. The shadow of a metal Maltese cross placed between the plate and uranium salt is clearly visible.

The more experiments Becquerel conducted, the more he became convinced that the exposure effect is caused by unknown radiation that passes through opaque bodies. It was obvious that if uranium salts emit these rays in the dark, then, of course, there is no connection between the phenomenon of phosphorescence and X-ray radiation. To confirm this conclusion, the scientist checks how other uranium compounds affect photographic plates. Finally, on 18 May 1896, using metallic uranium obtained by French chemist Henri Poisson, Becquerel experimentally proves that uranium is the carrier of uranium rays. Scientists are faced with a previously unknown property of this element atoms to constantly and invariably release energy.

The role of impurities in phosphorescent substances was interesting for Becquerel. He invited young French scientist Pierre Curie to check these substances for impurities. Pierre’s wife Maria Skłodowska-Curie, interested in deeply penetrating radiation capable to ionize air and expose a photographic plate, decided to choose this phenomenon as the subject of her doctoral thesis. The scientist wanted to find out have the impurities of uranium compounds its property to emit “Becquerel rays” (later, in 1898, she calls them radioactive, introducing term “radioactivity” into use), and are there other unknown elements that have such property.

The method of photographic plates was unsuitable for solving the issue, because it required a lot of time, therefore, to measure the electrical conductivity of air, Maria Curie used a piezoelectric quartz balancer of the Curie brothers. Many natural compounds that do not contain uranium were studied and substances containing thorium were also found to be emissive. These results were obtained simultaneously and independently in 1898 by Pierre and Maria Curie and German scientist Gerhard Schmidt.

After studying other substances, Maria Curie had to return to uranium compounds. Metallic uranium was chosen as the reference radiation source. As a result, it was found that two uranium minerals (chalcolite and uranium resin) have more intense radiation than metallic uranium. Thus, these minerals contained another unknown substance, which had a higher radioactivity level.

In 1898, Maria Curie reported the results of her experiments to the French Academy of Sciences. Convinced that his wife’s hypothesis was not only correct, but also extremely important, Pierre Curie left his own experiments to help Maria extract the imperceptible element. Since that time, the interests of the Curies as researchers have merged so much that even in their laboratory notes they always used pronoun we. To test the hypothesis, artificial chalcolite was made with a uranium content corresponding to the natural composition. It turned out that the artificial chalcolite’s activity is several times higher than that of natural one. Consequently, the natural chalcolite contained a new radioactive element, whose activity was higher than the activity of metallic uranium. Pierre and Maria suggested to name this element polonium in honor of Poland, the birthplace of Maria Skłodowska-Curie. It happened on 18 July 1898. In addition, in this study, a new method of “tagged atoms” was applied. Polonium was later extracted from chalcolite.

On 28 December 1898, the Curies discovered a new radioactive element: with their own hands, they obtained the world’s first gram of radium from eight tons of uranite. The Curies refused to patent the technique and secure the rights to the industrial technology of its production, believing that this “contradicts the spirit of science.” Twenty years later, Maria Curie would write: “With my consent, Pierre refused to profit materially from our discovery. We decided not to patent the technique and, without hiding anything, made public the results of our research, as well as methods for obtaining radium. Moreover, all those interested were provided with the necessary explanations. Together with Pierre, we were supporters of the free development of radium production, first in France and then abroad, so we supplied scientists and doctors with the products they needed.

Maria and Pierre Curie in their Parisian laboratory (before 1907)

In June 1903, Maria Curie defended her doctoral thesis, in the same year, together with her husband and Henri Becquerel, she was awarded the Nobel Prize and became the first woman in history to win this high award.

Becquerel managed to make another significant discovery in atomic physics. Once, before a public lecture, he asked the Curies for a radioactive substance and put the test tube in his breast pocket. After the lecture, he returned the substance to the owners. Then he found a significant redness in the form of a test tube on the skin. Becquerel told Pierre Curie about this, and he decided to conduct an experiment himself: for ten hours he carried a test tube with radium tied to his forearm. A few days later, he found redness, which eventually turned into a serious ulcer. Thus, the biological effect of radioactivity was discovered for the first time.

As for the Curies, after the tragic death of Pierre in 1906, Maria took up the position of professor at the Sorbonne’ s Department of Physics and continued to work for obtaining pure radium. Together with Henri Debierne, she managed to do this in 1910, and already in 1911, she was among the Nobel Prize winners in chemistry. In 1918, under her leadership, the Radium Institute at the University of Paris was established. This institute became one of the world’s centers for radiochemistry and nuclear physics.

Maria Skłodowska-Curie driving a mobile x-ray machine

After the discovery of radium in 1898, other radioactive elements began to appear one after the other. In 1899 Andre Debierne discovered actinium, and in 1900 Friedrich Dorn discovered radon. In 1902, Rutherford, together with Frederick Soddy, published the theory of atom radioactive decay. Between 1905 and 1912, research on the decay products of uranium, thorium, and actinium allowed Soddy to introduce the concept of an isotope. By the 1920s, about 40 natural radioactive elements were discovered, genetic relationships between them were established, and three types of radioactive radiation were identified: α-, β-, γ-rays.

Research of X-rays and Radioactive Elements on the Territory of Ukraine

In Ukraine, X-rays were studied immediately after their discovery. In 1896, many reports appeared in the scientific literature about experiments with radiation carried out at universities of Kyiv, Odessa, and Kharkiv.

Mykola Pylchykov, professor at the Odessa University was among the first researchers of X-rays. Using the pipe of Ivan Puliui, Pylchykov discovered a number of unknown properties of invisible rays. He found a way to reduce exposure time to 2 seconds. It was the shortest exposure in the world. Mykola Pylchykov is considered the founder of radiography and radiology in Ukraine, under his leadership, in 1896, the practical application of radiodiagnostics was started in Odessa hospitals.

Ukrainian scientist, geologist, naturalist, founder of geochemistry, biochemistry and radiogeology, doctrine of the biosphere, noosphere and cosmism, as well as one of the founders of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine Volodymyr Vernadskyi was one of the first who fully realized the power hidden in the atomic nucleus. In 1909, he developed the idea of a chain reaction and nuclear fusion and realized that radioactive elements contain enormous energy, which in the near future can be obtained for the benefit of mankind.

Yevhen Burkser

In 1910, on the initiative of the talented geochemist and radiologist Yevhen Burkser, the first radiological laboratory was established in Odessa. Since 1911, the laboratory started to study radioactivity of water, silt, rocks and natural objects of the Odessa coastal lakes. In 1912, under the leadership of Yevhen Burkser, the first expedition to the Caucasus was organized. Its goal was to study radioactivity of mineral springs and natural objects in Georgia and Abkhazia. Based on the expedition results, the scientist made a report at the Thirteenth Congress of Naturalists and Physicians, after which it was decided to recognize the importance of scientific activities of the Odessa Radiological Laboratory and in every possible way contribute to its further research. In 1912, the first emanator in Odessa was constructed in the laboratory to prepare radioactive water used for experiments and prevention of oncological diseases. Already in 1915, they independently extracted radium from Fergana uranium ore waste.

Volodymyr Vernadskyi highly appreciated the work of Yevhen Burkser and Odessa Radiological Laboratory. In 1915, under the editorship of the scientist, the Proceedings of the Radium Expedition were published, one of whose volumes was developed by Burkser and dedicated to the studies of the Odessa Radiological Laboratory.

Since 1917, the laboratory studied radon. In 1921, the Institute of Applied Chemistry and Radiology was established in the laboratory and in 1925 it was transformed into the Institute of Chemistry and Radiology under the leadership of Yevhen Burkser. It was the first major research institution in Ukraine that studied radioactive elements and related research.

After the first report on the discovery of X-rays, Professor of the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute Heorhii De-Metts repeated the experiments of the German scientist, conducting a series of experiments on the effect of radiation on living organisms and inanimate objects. In February 1896, the scientist published article “X-rays and Their Use in Medicine”, in which he presented his studies with photos. Heorhii De-Metts got clear pictures of the frog with the image of its internal organs. He was convinced that X-rays could be used to diagnose and treat a person.

Heorhii De-Metts

In March 1896, another article by the scientist “Photograph inside the Crookesa Tube” was published, which described the nature of X-rays and their ability to penetrate various objects, including the tissues of living organisms. The scientist did not stop there and began to study the influence of the magnetic field on the penetrability of X-rays. Later, another of his articles was published “Radioactivity and Structure of Matter”, which described a number of experiments to study natural radioactivity using preparations from the gynecological clinic of the Kyiv Medical Institute. As a result, Heorhii De-Metts concluded that living organisms have stable low radioactivity and do not accumulate a significant amount of radioactive elements in their organs.

De-Metts was also interested in radium, the scientist conducted a study of its content in water and flora from the pond of the Kyiv Botanical Garden. The accumulation of radium by duckweed – that was among the priority studies. According to their results, the scientist concluded that some types of living tissue are able to absorb and even concentrate radium from water and the environment. Therefore, radioactivity fluctuations of an organism depend on the conditions of its existence. Heorhii De-Metts devoted many years to radioactivity issues, repeatedly took part in scientific conferences, the most important of which were:  International Congress on Physics in Paris in 1900, International Congress on Radiology and Electricity in Brussels in 1910, Congress on the Study of Production Forces of the National Economy of Ukraine in Kharkiv 1924, Radiological Congress in Odessa in 1925, etc. The report “On the Study of the Radiological Wealth of Ukraine” made by him at the congress in Kharkiv was separately published in Kyiv in 1925.

Later, in 1931, De-Metts’ fundamental article “Radioactivity and Structure of Matter” was published, which presented a historical overview of developing the radioactivity theory, generalized knowledge about radioactive substances, historical discoveries of Conrad Roentgen, Henri Becquerel, Maria Skłodowska-Curie, Pierre Curie and other prominent scientists. In this effort, the scientist analyzed 68 different uranium materials and concluded that radioactivity is closely related to uranium and thorium, and therefore the search for sources rich in radioactive substances should be directed to uranium and thorium ores. At the same time, in the article, De-Metts described the geographical distribution of radioactive minerals, the richest deposits of uranium ores.

Search for Radioactive Elements during Uranium Mining in Ukraine

The history of the discovery of uranium deposits in Ukraine started in 1944, when a special revision detachment was first formed under the Ukrainian Geological Administration, and then the Central Ukrainian Party to search for radioactive elements.

When choosing top-priority objects for revision, the idea of linking between uranium mineralization of known world deposits and hydrothermal processes was of great importance. Some Ukrainian researchers believed that the formation of the Kryvyi Rih iron ore deposits was associated with these processes, so the first revision detachment was sent to Kryvyi Rih.

In April 1945, experts from the Kryvyi Rih Detachment of the Central Party identified high radioactivity in metasomatically altered amphibole-carbonate-magnetite ores during a radiometric survey of mine workings at the Pervomaiske iron ore deposit (Northern Kryvyi Rih). Control chemical analyzes confirmed the industrial content of uranium in samples. Thus, the Pervomaiske deposit was discovered – the first large uranium deposit on the territory of Ukraine.

Here, for the sake of historical justice, we should mention geologist Iosyp Tanatar, who, even before World War II, described intense manifestations of alkaline metasomatism precisely in those areas where the first industrial uranium deposits in the USSR were discovered. The author of the studies, unfortunately, was not destined to complete this work. Since 1941 he was under German occupation, and in 1945 he was arrested.

In January 1946, the Pervomaisk Geological Exploration Party was established for further study of the uranium mineralization discovered in the Northern Kryvyi Rih. In the same year, during the study of the core of old (pre-war) wells and radiometric survey of previously flooded mine workings, party workers discovered the Zhovtorichenske uranium deposit.

To explore the Pervomaiske and Zhovtorichenske deposits, as well as to search new objects in this region, the Kryvyi Rih expedition was formed, in November 1947 it became part of the USSR Kirov geological exploration expedition. As a result of the detailed exploration, the discovered deposits were transferred to industry. Mining of iron and uranium ores was initiated by the Kryvbasruda trust. However, in 1951, Mining and Processing Plant No. 9 was established to mine and process uranium and iron ores. It eventually turned into the Skhidnyi Mining and Processing Plant (SkhidGZK) of the USSR Ministry of Medium Machine Building.

Skhidnyi Mining and Processing Plant

In the early 1950s, geologists established an increased uranium content in the Paleogene brown coal deposits of the Dnipro basin (Dniprobas). Approximately at the same time, anomalous uranium concentrations were found in the Paleozoic deposits of the margins of the Donetsk coal basin, and uranium-bitumen mineralization was discovered within concomitant search in the dome structures of the northwestern Donbass part (Krasnooskilske and Adamivske deposits).

Over time, in the brown coal deposits of Dniprobas, the Kirov expedition explored a series of infiltration deposits: Khrystoforivske, Pervozvanne, Petromykhailivske, Surske and Devladivske. However, all of them turned out to be small regarding uranium reserves and were classified as off-balance.

Later, when the Devladivske deposit was studied, scientists found out that the technological properties of ores contribute to a high extraction of uranium with a weak (3-5%) solution of sulfuric acid. Consequently, ore deposits occur in permeable rocks in a pressure aquifer confined by aquicludes. This gave grounds in 1957 to a group of workers of the Kirov expedition for the first time in the USSR to propose a method of underground leaching of uranium ores in situ. The economic effect was obvious – it was not necessary to construct very expensive pits and go through underground mine workings in unstable, watered rocks. An opportunity appeared to obtain uranium in an economically viable way from deposits that previously belonged to off-balance ones.

However, it took five years until in 1962 SkhidGZK started research and field activities on uranium leaching at the Devladivske deposit. The results exceeded all hopes: from 1965 to 1977, the main reserves of the deposit were withdrawn with a significant economic effect.

In 1962, the Kirov expedition discovered new deposits in the Buh region: Pivdenne, Lozuvatske, Kalynivske. Feasibility studies have shown that their operation is unprofitable. In the same year, two more deposits were found: Sadove and Bratske, which were later recognized as small uranium objects of non-industrial significance.

Finally, in 1964, during radiometric logging of a well, which was drilled by the South Ukraine expedition of the Kyivgeology trust to search for water supply sources on the southern outskirts of Kyrovohrad (now Kropyvnytskyi), a radiation dose rate of 2250 µR/hour was recorded. In water samples from this well, the radon content reached 74 MBq/m3. Veinlets of uranium minerals were identified macroscopically in the core. After a radiometric survey of nearby natural outcrops, pits and operational wells for water, a uranium ore occurrence named Michurynskyi was discovered. By mid-January 1965, 56 wells were drilled at the object, 24 of which discovered conditioned uranium mineralization. The ore occurrence was transferred to the category of deposits.

In 1965, the Pivnichnokonoplianske deposit was discovered, in 1966 – Zakhidnokonoplianske and Lelekivske, 1968 – Severynske and Pidhaitsivske, 1970 – Shchorsivske, 1972 – Tsentralne. The discovery of deposits near Kirovohrad contributed to the strengthening of the SkhidGZK uranium resource base.

In 1974, within the Novokonstiantynivska tectonic and metasomatic zone, a radioactive halo was discovered by card drilling. In 1976, the ore occurrence got the status of a deposit. As a result of detailed exploration, this unique object was recognized as the largest not only in Ukraine, but throughout Europe.

In 1979, due to geological industry reorganization, the Kirov Expedition was transformed into the Kirov Production and Geological Association (PGA Kirovheolohiia).

After the Novokostiantynivske deposit, the following deposits were discovered on the territory of the Novoukrainskyi massif: Lisne, Dokuchaiivske, Litnie, Aprelske, Partyzanske.

In the 1990s, the scope of geological exploration and prospecting decreased significantly. Due to the lack of funding, only additional exploration and evaluation of previously discovered deposits and ore occurrences were carried out.

In the early 2000s, activities continued in Ukraine at four deposits: Michurinske and Tsentralne near Kropyvnytskyi, Vatutinske in the Smoline village and Novokonstiantynivske located between Kropyvnytskyi and Smoline villages. At the Michurinske and Vatutinske deposits, uranium ore reserves are on the verge of exhaustion. The Tsentralne deposit is being intensively developed; it provides the production capacities of the Inhulska mine. At the Novokonstiantynivske deposit, mining was just unfolded. The mined ore will be transported for processing to the Smolinska and Inhulska mines until the own processing plant is constructed.

Before the war, the production of natural uranium in Ukraine was about 1000 tons per year, that is, 40% of the current needs of nuclear energy. The strategic goal of the uranium industry is to meet the needs of the domestic nuclear energy with natural uranium of our own production.

Nuclear Weapons: Contribution of Ukrainians to Studies of Nuclear Reactions

Ernest Rutherford is considered the father of the first artificial nuclear reaction. Back in 1919, he turned a nitrogen nucleus into an oxygen nucleus. Both the atomic bomb and the peaceful atom originated from his experiments. However, few people know that the Ukrainian scientists who worked in the Kharkiv laboratory made no less contribution to the study of nuclear reactions.

In October 1932, a man-made scientific and technical miracle occurred in Kharkiv. The atomic nucleus was artificially split at the Ukrainian Institute of Physics and Technology (now NSC KIPT). What actually happened?… To some extent, it was like realizing the blue dream of alchemists: they took one substance – they got another one at the end. Kharkiv scientists Kyrylo Synelnykov, Anton Valter, Oleksandr Leipunskyi and Heorhii Latyshev “bombarded” lithium with protons at Van de Graaff accelerators.

Why is this a feat? Firstly, at the time of the experiment, the Ukrainian Institute of Physics and Technology (UIPT) itself existed for only four years (it was founded in 1928). To show the world such an outstanding scientific result in four years of existence is non-trivial in itself. Secondly, British experts from the Cavendish Laboratory – Ernest Rutherford’s students John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton, who were the first in the world to artificially split the nucleus, outran the Kharkiv scientists only for a few months. For this work, British scientists were subsequently awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1951.

Thirdly, it was such a time that if something went wrong in the experiment, then no one would ever hear about these four young people or their family members anywhere. They would disappear without a trace. Courage and unshakable confidence in their knowledge were needed to take up such an extraordinary task and accomplish it. The scientists did not conduct the experiment themselves. It was an expensive state level project. In addition to scientific and technical calculations, digging, welding were necessary. Special materials were required. However, the Soviet government spared no resources for this.

Next to the accelerator where the nucleus was split. Second from the left is Robert Van de Graaff (American inventor of the high-voltage generator), the other from the right is Kyrylo Synelnykov.

In particular, as it is now known, in 1940, UIPT scientists proposed a number of patent applications: “On the use of uranium as an explosive and poisonous substance”, “Method of preparing a uranium mixture enriched with uranium 235. Multidimensional centrifuge”, “Thermocirculation centrifuge”, etc. In fact, these patents outlined a scheme for atomic weapons, which later became generally accepted. However then, at first, the reaction to the applications was negative: “It (application) currently has no real foundation …. in fact, it has a lot of fantastic … “.

The Ukrainians were not the first in that experiment, but the results of artificial atom splitting should not be underestimated. It convincingly confirmed the ideas and postulates of quantum mechanics. It brought humanity closer to understanding natural phenomena, in particular, to the structure of matter. It opened the era of accelerators in world science. The modern Large Hadron Collider at CERN is many steps ahead in scale (both linear and energetic), which enables it to solve problems such as the discovery of the Higgs boson. So, the collider is a descendant of the machine, which was created back in 1932 in Kharkiv.

In the post-war period, plutonium and nuclear weapons were produced in England, France, China and the USSR. In the 1940s, americium, curium, berkelium, and californium were synthesized. Einsteinium and fermium were discovered in the corals of Enewetak Atoll after the American thermonuclear explosion. Mendelevium was discovered by the group of Glenn Seaborg in the amount of 17 atoms. Nobelium was synthesized simultaneously in the USSR by Heorhii Flerov and Glenn Seaborg in the USA. In 1961, the Seaborg’s group managed to get lawrencium, and Flerov – dubnium. Currently, elements with serial numbers 105 – 112 (joliotium, rutherfordium, bohrium, gassium, meitnerium, darmstadtium, roentgenium, copernicium, respectively) were obtained.

Current Status of Research of Radioactive Elements in Ukraine and the World

In the world in 2021, for the first time, scientists were able to study in detail einsteinium, one of the most elusive and difficult elements of the periodic table.

The US Department of Energy discovered einsteinium in 1952 during tests of the first hydrogen bomb. This element does not occur naturally and can only be produced in small amounts using specialized nuclear reactors. It is also difficult to separate it from other elements, is extremely radioactive, and decays rapidly, making research more difficult.

Scientists of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California recently produced 233-nanogram samples of pure einsteinium and conducted the first experiments since the 1970s.

Einsteinium is produced by bombarding a target, in this case curium, with neutrons and protons to create heavier elements. However, getting it is only half the task. The next issue is finding a place to store it.

Einsteinium-254 has a half-life of 276 days. It decays into berkelium-250, which has very hard gamma radiation. Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Mexico have developed a special 3D printed sample holder. It protects scientists in the laboratory from hazardous radiation.

In Ukraine, before the war, research in the field of nuclear and radiation physics, reactor materials science, and condensed state physics was carried out at nuclear physics installations of the National Academy of Sciences. They were used to produce radioisotopes for medicine and industry, radiation sterilization, processing of semiconductor structures, study of nanostructures, and preservation of artifacts. These installations played an important role in solving the issues of up-to-date nuclear energy in Ukraine, developing reactors of future generations and thermonuclear installations. As of today, all installations of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine are shut down and are in a subcritical state. Personnel monitor parameters and maintain them in operable condition.

Nuclear subcritical installation “Neutron source” was developed in the National Science Center “Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology” in Kharkiv. Its main purpose is to conduct scientific and applied research in the area of nuclear physics, radiation materials science, biology, chemistry and to produce radioisotopes. Since 6 March 2022, the neutron source has been shelled by the russian military with cynical frequency. According to the information of the operating organization, as a result of another shelling, the nuclear installation was significantly damaged, the likelihood of new ones may affect the state of nuclear and radiation safety.


  1. Mykhailo Soroka “Miracle Rays of the Outstanding Ukrainian”
  2. Publication “This Day in History”. Discovery of Radium
  3. Oksana Maidebura “First Radiobiological Research in Ukraine”
  4. Orysia Mykytiuk and Olena Olar “Mykola Pylchykov – an Outstanding Ukrainian Inventor”
  5. Ivan Yatsenko “Volodymyr Vernadskyi and Physics”
  6. Svitlana Plachkova “Knowledge and Experience – the Path to Modern Energy”
  7. Ihor Hirka “Scientific Feat of Ukrainians, which Few People Know about”
  8. Mykola Shatalov “Uranium of the Subsoil of Ukraine: Geochemistry of Uranium and History of Forming the Mineral Resource Base”
  9. Anatolii Bakarzhiiev and Oleksandr Lysenko “The History of Forming the Uranium Raw Material Base in Ukraine”
  10. Documents of NSC KIPT Editorial Board