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What Shall We Do With Nuclear Waste?


There are two ways of dealing with the problem of nuclear waste. The first one is the easiest but not the most sensible: you can simply bury nuclear waste products and try to forget about them. However, this way does not seem to be the most rational. It seems much more attractive to try to derive some benefit from the situation. In this case it is worth extracting the compounds that could be used in future from the whole mass of nuclear wastes. In the first instance, these are non-burnt uranium and plutonium. These components of nuclear fuel can be returned into nuclear reactors. Moreover, it is necessary to extract radionuclides, which can find their further application because these compounds of nuclear wastes, as the scientists say, "contain the whole periodic table". And all the remaining nuclear substances should be divided into fractions according to their lifetime: long-lived, short-lived, and stable. How to solve the task?

According to the existing technology all this nuclear rubbish should be dissolved on the first stage and only then the useful compounds are extracted from the solution in succession. An organic solvent is usually used for this purpose. However, the extractant used in industry does not identify many compounds.

Chemists and technologists under the supervision of Professor Zilberman have thought up how to divide nuclear waste products into separate fractions. The researchers could extract from the whole mass not only pure uranium and plutonium but also extremely dangerous radionuclides separately. The secret is in the addition to the extractant discovered by the scientists. It enables extracting all the necessary compounds effectively and selectively on particular stages of processing. It is also very important that the technology can be applied to the industrial process using standard equipment that should be just modified.

The tests proved that the new technology enabled extracting uranium, plutonium, neptunium, technetium, transplutonium elements, and also stable molybdenum and zirconium from the waste materials of nuclear power stations. Then the extracted radionuclides can be used or buried.

Tatiana Pitchugina | alphagalileo

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