American researchers have developed a process for removing an extremely toxic element from nuclear waste, paving the way for safer and faster disposal. In an article published in the latest issue of the journal Science, the team from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), the USA, described how they managed to remove highly radioactive americium from the nuclear waste – a problem that has puzzled researchers for decades. “In order to solve the nuclear waste problem, you have to solve the americium problem,” said Tom Meyer, Professor of Chemistry at UNC, who led the study. The new technique breaks down americium into a more manageable material by removing three electrons. Professor Meyer used a similar technique previously to tear electrons from water molecules in a research dealing with solar energy. The only difference is that splitting americium requires twice the amount of energy as splitting water. The resulting element behaves more like plutonium and uranium, which are easy to remove from the radioactive waste with existing techniques.
Engineering & Technology 17th March 2016 read more »