TIME recycling

It’s Outrageously Expensive, but This Element Could Be Used to Recycle Radioactive Fuel One Day

Jochen Luebke—AFP/Getty Images A tank containing radioactive water is seen at the Asse nuclear-waste-storage facility in Remlingen, Germany, on March 4, 2014

A few milligrams costs a fortune, but californium shows fascinating potential nonetheless

Research on a little-known element called californium may open up completely new opportunities to store radioactive waste and recycle radioactive fuel.

The team behind the study, published in the current edition of Nature Chemistry, found that californium had an extraordinary capability to bond with and separate other materials. It also has an extreme resistance to radiation damage.

“It sounds almost too good to be true,” says professor Thomas Albrecht-Schmitt, who led the Florida State University–based experiments, and refers to the element as “wicked stuff.”

This groundbreaking work does not only shed light on a fringe element of the periodic table, it may also help scientists develop new storage containers for radioactive waste and to separate radioactive fuel, which means it could be recycled.

“It’s not purely an academic practice,” said Albrecht-Schmitt. “This has real-world application.”

The snag? It requires a ton of cash. The 5 mg of californium used in Albrecht-Schmitt’s research cost a whopping $1.4 million to obtain, and required years of work with the U.S. Department of Energy.

[Phys.org]

Tap to read full story

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com


YOU BROKE TIME.COM!

Dear TIME Reader,

As a regular visitor to TIME.com, we are sure you enjoy all the great journalism created by our editors and reporters. Great journalism has great value, and it costs money to make it. One of the main ways we cover our costs is through advertising.

The use of software that blocks ads limits our ability to provide you with the journalism you enjoy. Consider turning your Ad Blocker off so that we can continue to provide the world class journalism you have become accustomed to.

The TIME Team