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Glass and ceramics to be made from radioactive waste?

United States – A research team at Rutgers University in the USA has found a way to recycle nuclear waste by immobilising radioactive iodine-129 in ‘chemically durable’ glass and ceramics at room temperature.

The half-life of iodine is more than 15 million years and it can disperse rapidly in air and water, inflicting significant damage on the environment, humans and animals.

‘What we’re talking about here is highly complex, multi-component radioactive waste which contains almost everything in the periodic table,’ says Ashutosh Goel, who is responsible for the breakthrough.

He believes the research may provide a solution for the safe disposal of the highly-radioactive spent nuclear fuel currently stored at commercial nuclear power plants. ‘It depends on its composition, how complex it is and what it contains,’ Goel acknowledges. ‘If we know the chemical composition of the nuclear waste coming out from those plants, we can definitely work on it.’

According to Goel, who is assistant professor in the university’s materials science and engineering department, glass is a ‘perfect’ material for immobilising the radioactive wastes with ‘excellent’ chemical durability. He adds that production of glass is expected to start at a plant treating liquid radioactive waste in Washington around 2023. ‘The implications of our research will be much more visible by that time,’ Goel states.

The research project is being funded by the US department of energy.

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