Recipe for radioactive compounds aids nuclear waste and fuel storage pools studies

Apr 15, 2011
The diagrammatic image, viewed from upper left to bottom right, shows steps in the templated creation of radioactive compounds. In this case, the red spidery-looking shape is oxygen building a cage around tantalum (blue sphere) ; green sphere is potassium, pink is cesium. The yellow boxes are uranyl peroxide. Chemical attractions force the disparate parts to self-assemble. The background is a transmitted light-microscope image of crystals of the final product, U28.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Easy-to-follow recipes for radioactive compounds like those found in nuclear fuel storage pools, liquid waste containment areas and other contaminated aqueous environments have been developed by researchers at Sandia National Laboratories.

“The need to understand the chemistry of these compounds has never been more urgent, and these recipes facilitate their study,” principal investigator May Nyman said of her group’s success in encouraging significant amounts of relevant compounds to self-assemble.

The trick to the recipes is choosing the right templates. These are atoms or molecules that direct the growth of compounds in much the way islands act as templates for coral reefs.

The synthesized materials are stable, pure and can be studied in solution or as solids, making it easier to investigate their chemistry, transport properties and related phases.

The compounds are bright yellow, soluble peroxides of uranium called uranyl peroxide. These and related compounds may be present in any liquid medium used in the nuclear fuel cycle. They also appear in the environment from natural or human causes.

Made with relatively inexpensive and safe depleted uranium, the recipes may be adapted to include other, more radioactive metals such as neptunium, whose effects are even more important to study, Nyman said.

Cesium — an element of particular concern in its radioactive form — proved to be, chemically, an especially favored template for the compounds to self-assemble.

Explore further: Recycling industrial waste water: Scientists discover a new method of producing hydrogen

More information: The research will be featured as the cover article of the May 3 online European Journal of Inorganic Chemistry, to be published in print May 13. dx.doi.org/10.1002/ejic.201001355

Related Stories

Computational actinide chemistry: Are we there yet?

Aug 21, 2007

Ever since the Manhattan project in World War II, actinide chemistry has been essential for nuclear science and technology. Yet scientists still seek the ability to interpret and predict chemical and physical ...

Scientists find safer ways to detect uranium minerals

Nov 21, 2006

The threat of "dirty" bombs and plans to use nuclear power as an energy source have driven Queensland University of Technology scientists to discover a new, safer way of detecting radioative contamination in the ground. Professor ...

Plutonium in troubled reactors, spent fuel pools

Mar 18, 2011

(AP) --The fuel rods at all six reactors at the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi complex contain plutonium - better known as fuel for nuclear weapons. While plutonium is more toxic than uranium, other radioactive ...

Recommended for you

A greener source of polyester—cork trees

Apr 16, 2014

On the scale of earth-friendly materials, you'd be hard pressed to find two that are farther apart than polyester (not at all) and cork (very). In an unexpected twist, however, scientists are figuring out ...

A beautiful, peculiar molecule

Apr 16, 2014

"Carbon is peculiar," said Nobel laureate Sir Harold Kroto. "More peculiar than you think." He was speaking to a standing-room-only audience that filled the Raytheon Amphitheater on Monday afternoon for the ...

Metals go from strength to strength

Apr 15, 2014

To the human hand, metal feels hard, but at the nanoscale it is surprisingly malleable. Push a lump of metal with brute force through a right-angle mould or die, and while it might look much the same to the ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

stealthc
not rated yet Apr 15, 2011
There is an extra large laboratory in japan called fukushima, you should go study that.

More news stories

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...