Nuclear Isomers

A typical reaction energy in chemistry, a few electron volt per atom, is almost negligible compared to the energy that can be stored in the atom's nucleus: a nuclear weapon that is light enough to be carried in an airplane or on a rocket half-way around the world can have the explosive energy of a million tons of TNT. It is therefore understandable that forward-thinking planners remain interested in innovative ways to make nuclear energy storage useful. Particularly promising seem nuclear isomers, meta-stable nuclei whose energy can be liberated not only by neutrons but also by electromagnetic radiation.

A vastly exaggerated if not simply erroneous view of nuclear isomers' utility, in our opinion, comes up by googling for 'hafnium controversy'. One early hit is a Wikipedia page, written almost exclusively by Prof. Carl Collins. Critical comments and corrections to this 'hafnium controversy' page are almost immediately deleted by Prof. Collins, who thereby violates the premise on which Wikipedia is based, viz., correction of errors by the larger community.

We think that nuclear isomers are very interesting from a pure physics standpoint. However, the nuclear isomers evaluated to date don't give up their energy easily enough to expect practical applications. While in principle it may be possible that some other nuclear isomer has a vastly larger cross section without a corresponding decrease in its half-life, we don't expect this to be the case. Some technical discussion of these matters are in the following publications:

For an account of nuclear isomers from a scientific perspective your best bet is to google for 'Carroll nuclear isomer'. This brings up many publications by J. J. Carroll, P. M. Walker, and their colleagues that are well-written, insightful, and, most important in this controversial field, scientifically reputable.