Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Hospital scanner could curb nuclear waste threat

01.02.2010
Medical equipment used for diagnosis of patients with heart disease and cancer could be a key weapon in stopping nuclear waste seeping into the environment, according to new research.

A team of scientists from the Universities of Manchester and Leeds have joined forces with experts in nuclear medicine at Manchester Royal Infirmary, using medical gamma-ray cameras to track radioactive isotopes in soil samples from a US civil nuclear site.

This is the first time the technique, which is used in hospitals for heart, bone and kidney scanning, has been used to study the environmental behaviour of nuclear waste – and its success could help scientists find new ways of using bacteria to control the spread of radioactivity.

Radioactive isotopes of the element technetium (Tc) are produced in bulk by nuclear facilities, while a specific isotope of Tc with a very short life is routinely used as a medical tracer in human bodies.

Nuclear fission of Uranium has released tonnes of Tc from nuclear facilities over the past decades, with the element remaining radioactive for thousands of years.

But although the short lived medical isotope is chemically indistinguishable from that in long lived waste, it can be used safely in tests.

In the study researchers from The University of Manchester, led by Prof Jon Lloyd, took soil samples from the Oak Ridge nuclear facility in the United States and successfully tracked the movement of medical Tc through the soil.

Scientists at The University of Leeds were then asked to verify the observations using a special microscope technique called Transmission electron microscopy (TEM).

With the help of DNA analysis the Manchester team confirmed that certain microbes – and particularly some that use ferric iron for energy – can fix Tc in place in soils.

Researchers found that nearly all the Tc remained fixed when ferric iron was present with these 'iron-reducing' bacteria.

This finding itself is not new – Professor Lloyd and his colleagues had previously reported that microbes in laboratory cultures could perform this role in fixing Tc.

But the researchers' success in using the gamma camera could see the technique being used to probe how Tc and ferric iron move together in far more complex soil systems more representative of the 'real world' – helping develop future remediation techniques.

Prof Jon Lloyd from the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Science (SEAES) at The University of Manchester, said: "Using this medical scanning technique we were able to explore, in real time, the mobility of one of the most problematic and mobile radionuclides in sediments.

"Our success will allow scientists to accurately monitor the success of new biological methods in trapping radioactive elements in sediments and stopping them spreading further into the natural environment."

The findings coincide with the opening of a new Research Centre for Geological Disposal at The University, supported by a £1.4m endowment from BNFL, while a new Nuclear Medicine Centre recently opened at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, as part of the £500m Central Manchester Hospitals development.

Prof Lloyd added: "Investment in these two diverse but important areas of scientific research has helped bring about interesting and unexpected research findings that could ultimately have great benefit for society."

Notes to editors

Prof Lloyd is available for comment by arrangement. For more information please contact Alex Waddington, Media Relations Officer, UoM, Tel 0161 275 8387 / 07717 881569.

The research was published in a special edition of the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science and Technology. A copy of the paper, 'Probing the Biogeochemical Behaviour of Technetium Using a Novel Nuclear Imaging Approach' is available on request.

Alex Waddington | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.manchester.ac.uk

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht When corals eat plastics
24.05.2018 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

When corals eat plastics

24.05.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Surgery involving ultrasound energy found to treat high blood pressure

24.05.2018 | Medical Engineering

First chip-scale broadband optical system that can sense molecules in the mid-IR

24.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>