A British Scientist Invents Solidifiable Nuclear Waste Glass
14.04.2015 views:1556

Nuclear energy is generally safe and produces much fewer wastes than fossil fuels.

Nuclear wastes, however, are indeed extremely dangerous, so great care should be taken when disposing them. If not, nuclear wastes can not only induce cancers, but also negatively influence surrounding ecosystem. The most widely used method at present is to store nuclear wastes in large cement containers. But it takes millions and even tens of millions of years for nuclear wastes to become inert due to their characteristics, which indicates high cost on such a waste disposal. The new technology delivered by Prof. Neil Hyatt from Department of Materials Science and Engineering, The University of Sheffield is able to eliminate ninety percent of radioactive wastes, which has been published in Journal of Nuclear Materials.

The satisfactory technology in volume compression of nuclear wastes combines granulated blast-furnace slag, a by-product of iron & steel manufacturing, with plutonium in nuclear wastes to produce safely storable “synthetic glass” with stable plutonium. While in the research, the research group replaced plutonium with cerium. As the two metals are similar in property, researchers use cerium as a safe substitute for technical simplification. Three shares of cerium and one share of blast-furnace slag were heated at over 1500℃ (2732℉) and then cooled at room temperature. Finally, durable black silicate glass that can be used for safe storage of hazardous waste plutonium was obtained.

No strong reaction occurred in the melting process, with the silicate glass generated being 5%~20% of the raw material in volume. The research group hopes this achievement can be applied to cleanup of Fukushima Nuclear Power Station hit by the seismic sea wave in Japan in 2011 since it is simple and practicable. Globally, application of atomic energy will bring more than 200,000m3 radioactive wastes each year.

The new technology can transform nuclear wastes into safely buried solid glass, which remarkably brings down cost on waste disposal; it is also safer and can mitigate public concern over burial of nuclear wastes.