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Technology makes storing radioactive waste safer
Date:11/2/2011

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researchers have developed new technology capable of removing radioactive material from contaminated water and aiding clean-up efforts following nuclear disasters.

The innovation could also solve the problem of how to clean up millions of tonnes of water contaminated by dangerous radioactive material and safely store the concentrated waste.

Professor Huai-Yong Zhu from QUT Chemistry said the world-first intelligent absorbent, which uses titanate nanofibre and nanotube technology, differed from current clean-up methods, such as layered clays and zeolites, because it could efficiently lock in deadly radioactive material from contaminated water.

The used absorbents can then be safely disposed without the risk of leakage, even if the material became wet.

"One gram of the nanofibres can effectively purify at least one tonne of polluted water," Professor Zhu said.

"This saves large amounts of dangerous water needing to be stored somewhere and also prevents the risk of contaminated products leaking into the soil."

The technology, which was developed in collaboration with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and Pennsylvania State University in America, works by running the contaminated water through the fine nanotubes and fibres, which trap the radioactive Cesium (Cs+) ions through a structural change.

"Every year we hear of at least one nuclear accident. Not only is there a risk of contamination where human error is concerned, but there is also a risk from natural disasters such as what we saw in Japan this year," he said.

Professor Zhu and his research team believed the technology would also benefit industries as diverse as mining and medicine.

By adding silver oxide nanocrystals to the outer surface, the nanostructures are able to capture and immobilise radioactive iodine (I-) ions used in treatments for thyroid ca
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Contact: Alita Pashley
alita.pashley@qut.edu.au
61-731-381-841
Queensland University of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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