A ‘Molecular Trap’ for Capturing Radioactive Iodides in Nuclear Waste
Seeking a better way to capture radioactive iodides in spent nuclear reactor fuel, Rutgers–New Brunswick scientists have developed an extremely efficient “molecular trap” that can be recycled and reused.
The trap is like a tiny, porous super-sponge. The internal surface area of just 1 gram of this material could stretch out to cover five 94-by-50-foot basketball courts, or 23,500 square feet. And, once caught inside, radioactive iodides will remain trapped for eons.
“This type of material has tremendous potential because of its high porosity,” said Jing Li, distinguished professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “It has far more space than a sponge and it can trap lots of stuff.”
Li is corresponding author of a study on molecular traps for nuclear fuel reprocessing that was published in Nature Communications. The first author is Baiyan Li, a former postdoctoral associate in Li’s group, and other Rutgers co-authors include doctoral students Hao Wang and Benjamin J. Deibert.
Reprocessing means separating spent nuclear reactor fuel into materials that may be recycled for use in new nuclear fuel or discarded as waste, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The U.S. has no commercial reprocessing facilities at the moment, but commercial facilities are operating in other countries.
When spent fuel is reprocessed, radioactive molecular iodine and organic iodide gases that pose cancer and environmental risks must be captured and sequestered. The long-lived gases are hard to capture and can leak into the environment, the Rutgers study says.
Solid adsorbents like silver-infused silica, alumina and zeolites can capture iodides, but their low uptake capacity and poor recyclability make them inefficient and costly, according to Li, who works in the School of Arts and Sciences.
It also far outperforms all current industrial materials in adsorbing, or binding to, radioactive organic iodides. For example, its ability to adsorb methyl iodide at 302 degrees Fahrenheit exceeds that of a benchmark industrial product by more than 340 percent.
Another benefit of the Rutgers molecular trap is that captured methyl iodide can be removed from metal-organic frameworks, enabling their recycling and reuse. This is not possible with current industrial products, from which adsorbent must be sequestered along with captured radioactive iodides.
The metal-organic framework is also cheaper than existing products because it doesn’t use silver or other precious metals, and is very robust, able to handle harsh reprocessing conditions such as high temperatures, high acidity and high humidity, Li said.
“We’re off to a very good start and we’d like to make improvements,” Li said. “Eventually, we hope it can be commercialized.”
The Latest on: Nuclear waste reprocessing
- Considerable progress at Sellafield highlighted by chief nuclear inspectoron October 15, 2019 at 2:57 am
from the Dounreay site in north Scotland to Sellafield as part of a national consolidation of nuclear waste. Mr Foy said “significant improvements” had also been made to operational practices at the ...
- Buried nuclear waste stays dangerous for a million years — here's how scientists plan to stop a future disasteron October 14, 2019 at 9:56 am
High-level radioactive waste is different. It is, primarily, spent fuel from nuclear reactors or the residues resulting from reprocessing that fuel. This waste is so potent that it must be ...
- Have your say on Sellafield permit changeson October 9, 2019 at 7:52 am
The Sellafield site has historically reprocessed nuclear fuel in its THORP and Magnox reprocessing plants. However ... discharge liquids and gases to the environment and dispose of solid waste. Given ...
- Gen IV Nuclear Energy is Clean, Efficient and Plentiful – Why the Fear?on October 8, 2019 at 7:32 am
All Navy submarines and aircraft carriers are powered with light water reactors. As to why there is a problem about nuclear waste, Schneider spoke of how Carter in 1970 had banned the reprocessing of ...
- Plans revealed to change Sellafield's radioactive waste limitson October 7, 2019 at 6:42 am
Plans to change the amount of radioactive waste that the Sellafield site is allowed to ... Ltd to carry out a major review of its permit in readiness for the end of nuclear fuel reprocessing at the ...
- Public consultation on Sellafield waste changeson October 7, 2019 at 4:01 am
The organisation regulates discharges and radioactive waste disposals from Sellafield, and there are stringent discharge limits in place to ensure minimal impact on the local area. The west Cumbria ...
- Ireland’s energy needson October 3, 2019 at 6:40 pm
A total of 4,000 people are employed at Hinkley C in constructing one plant. Some 10,000 are employed at Windscale (Sellafield) solely in nuclear fuel reprocessing, nuclear waste storage, and nuclear ...
- How can we warn humans about nuclear waste in a million years’ time?on September 30, 2019 at 6:57 am
High-level radioactive waste is different. It is, primarily, spent fuel from nuclear reactors or the residues resulting from reprocessing that fuel. This waste is so potent that it must be isolated ...
- Are 3-mile-deep boreholes the long-term answer for nuclear waste stalemate?on September 29, 2019 at 3:00 pm
All of the nation’s commercial nuclear waste would fit in an area of no more than two square miles. Lawmakers should take Yucca off the table, forget the 50-year retrievable requirement — America has ...
- Nuclear is ‘cheaper, safer and greener’ energy than any other power source so why are we afraid?on September 25, 2019 at 4:28 am
That’s really the future.’ Recycling or ‘reprocessing’ nuclear waste, as it is called, already happens at 12 sites across the world, in China, France, India, Pakistan, Russia and even in ...
via Google News and Bing News