Scientists from the University of Strathclyde, collaborating with an international team from Imperial College, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory(RAL), ITU (Karlsruhe) and the University of Jena, have successfully turned the radioactive isotope Iodine-129, a major waste product in the nuclear power industry, into the more friendly isotope Iodine-128 using laboratory lasers. This is the first time an isotope has been transmuted. They announced their discovery today in The Institute of Physics journal Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics.
Iodine-129 is one of the major waste products from nuclear power plants and has a half-life of 15.7 million years making it difficult and dangerous to dispose of. Currently, it is encased in glass and buried deep in the earth. Professor Ken Ledingham and colleagues irradiated Iodine-129 with a laser beam and succeeded in turning it into Iodine-128 which, with a half life of just 25 minutes, can be safely handled and disposed of within an hour.
The next step for Professor Ledingham is to develop this technique on an industrial scale and with other radioactive isotopes. He is currently working on a proposal to seek funding to develop a laser system large enough to cope with the volume of Iodine-129 produced by the nuclear power industry.
David Reid | alfa
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