Breakthrough offers greater understanding of safe radioactive waste disposal

Breakthrough offers greater understanding of safe radioactive waste disposal
Credit: Manchester University

A group of scientists from The University of Manchester, the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and the UK's synchrotron science facility, Diamond Light Source, has completed research into radioactively contaminated material to gain further understanding around the issue, crucial for the safe and more efficient completion of future decommissioning projects.

Safely decommissioning the legacy of radioactively contaminated facilities from nuclear energy and weapons production is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st Century. Current estimates suggest clean-up of the UK's nuclear legacy will cost around £117bn and take decades to complete.

The team identified a concrete core taken from the structure of a nuclear fuel cooling pond contaminated with radioactive isotopes of caesium and strontium, located at the former Hunterston A, Magnox nuclear power station in Ayrshire. The core, which was coated and painted, was taken to the Diamond synchrotron for further analysis.

Strontium is a high yield nuclear fission product in nuclear reactors and tests showed that it was bonded to the titanium oxide found in the white pigment of the paint on the concrete core's coating.

By identifying the specific location of the , the research makes future investigation easier and could potentially leads to more efficient decontamination, saving millions of pounds by reducing the volume of our radioactive waste.

The work also found that the painted and rubberised under layers were intact and the paint had acted as a sealant for 60 years. However, experiments were conducted to examine what would happen if the contaminated pond water had breached the coating. It showed that the strontium would be bound strongly to the materials in the cement but the caesium was absorbed by clays and iron oxides forming part of the rock fragments in the concrete.

Professor Richard Pattrick, leading the project from The University of Manchester's Dalton Nuclear Institute stated: "This work shows the power of the techniques available at the Diamond synchrotron to meet the challenge of cleaning up our nuclear legacy and the University is working very closely with Diamond to develop facilities to support research across the whole of the nuclear industry"

Professor Anthony Banford, Chief Technologist for Waste Management and Decommissioning at NNL, commented: "This research project has demonstrated that collaboration with academia, industry and Diamond scientists, utilising the national scientific infrastructure delivers high quality research with industrial relevance and impact."

Professor Andrew Harrison, CEO of Diamond Light Source said: "Diamond is very pleased to have facilitated this decommissioning-related research and one major component of our future development plans is to help the UK address the complex and varied challenges of the nuclear industry."


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At the nanoscale, concrete proves effective for nuclear containment

More information: W.R. Bower et al. Characterising legacy spent nuclear fuel pond materials using microfocus X-ray absorption spectroscopy, Journal of Hazardous Materials (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2016.05.037
Journal information: Journal of Hazardous Materials

Citation: Breakthrough offers greater understanding of safe radioactive waste disposal (2016, November 18) retrieved 20 May 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2016-11-breakthrough-greater-safe-radioactive-disposal.html
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Nov 18, 2016
"Safely decommissioning the legacy of radioactively contaminated facilities from nuclear energy and weapons production is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st Century. Current estimates suggest clean-up of the UK's nuclear legacy will cost around £117bn and take decades to complete."
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And still they want to build more dangerous and costly nukes. It is immoral to do so. Why should the customers have to pay for what the utilities have done? Many of us warned them this would happen.

Nuke followers fell for the propaganda just like they fell for "WMD!", the identifier of the gullible.

Nov 18, 2016
It looks like the folk in Trump Country did not get the real message. Nuke and coal owners are trying to get the customers to pay even MORE for dirty filthy power and long-term liabilities of waste.

http://www.utilit.../430692/

Nov 18, 2016
And still they want to build more dangerous and costly nukes. It is immoral to do so. Why should the customers have to pay for what the utilities have done? Many of us warned them this would happen.


Most of the cost, the same as in the US, comes from cleaning the weapons program wastes which were produced with little oversight using primitive methods and disposed into storage with little care over a short number of years in the 50's.

In contrast, the utilities have put their nuclear wastes away reasonably and even PAID for the correct disposal of it in the US - tens of billions of dollars which the government has squandered and failed to provide a final disposal site by defunding Yucca Mountain.

Nov 19, 2016
Nuclear is still a cheaper, more reliable, better alternative than solar or wind. It takes up FAR less land as well. One large nuclear plant can power a small city. Once the nervous bureaucrats grow some brains, they'll sequester waste in salt mines which was a plan 50 years ago. Right now it costs $2200/kg to store waste. This is ridiculous and needless.

Nov 19, 2016
It takes up FAR less land as well

Compared to off-shore wind? Really? Far less land? Really?

Even on-shore wind farms take up next to no land. I mean, look at this:
http://darkroom.b...6604.jpg
How much land is that really using?

As for price: UK government is guaranteeing Hinkley 92.50UKP per megawatt for 35 years...with the estimated top price per megawatt for the next 35 years coming in under 70UKP
http://www.bbc.co...36925580
The rest will be paid by the taxpayer. Yep...sounds 'much cheaper' than any alternative, don't it?

Once the nervous bureaucrats grow some brains, they'll sequester waste in salt mines which was a plan 50 years ago.

Um..yeah. Because salt mine storage has been working out soooooo well.
https://en.wikipe...r_inflow
[/sarcasm]

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