Scientists have learned to turn radioactive waste into glass
The US Environmental Protection Agency has given permission for the use of real radioactive waste from the storage facility in the Henford complex for the second part of the testing of the new technology. At the first stage, their analog was used, but in the form of a single dose of 11 liters. It was successfully melted into safe borosilicate glass, and now the Ministry wants to check whether the process can be streamed.
Accurate data on the amount of low-level radioactive waste in the US are classified, but it is known that in the same Henford complex there are at least 200 thousand cubic meters. The whole trouble is that first of all they are engaged in the utilization of more dangerous high-level waste, so low-level accumulated for decades. These include all radioactive debris – dirt, dirty water, laboratory items, carcasses of experimental animals, etc.
Before the waste is converted to glass, it is filtered from large fragments and heavy metal particles, such as cesium, are removed. Then the raw material for the smelting of glass is added to the semi-liquid mass, after which the mixture is pumped through a furnace channel 12 cm wide with a strictly defined rate. The temperature in it reaches 2149 ° C, the productivity is 227 grams of glass in 30 minutes. Radioactive gases are pumped out and condensed, re-entering the mixture for melting.
Borosilicate glass is longevous and resistant, radioactive waste in it remains a danger, but remain “locked up” for thousands of years until half-decay does its job. And such glass ingots should still be stored somewhere, but it is much safer than liquid waste. The method is not universal, but better than nothing, especially for the United States, where for a long time they preferred to delay the solution of the issue of recycling for bureaucratic reasons.