Russell Goff, a masters student in the OSU Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics, estimated that the new technique could produce an annual revenue of as much as $10 million from the 104 nuclear reactors in The US. The technique, which now holds a provisional patent is cost-effective, safe and practical.
Irradiation, a process which is widely applied in the medical industry to sterilize supplies, as well as in the food industry to preserve foods, could now become much cheaper and solve the problem of nuclear waste disposal.
The method uses nuclear fuel to produce gamma rays needed for irradiation. A limitation of existing techniques for irradiation and a main concern of the sterilization industry, is the use of cobalt 60, which has a limited abundance in the environment. Goff argues that by using radiation from nuclear waste, the world’s supply of gamma rays could be easily doubled.
The system ensures safety of the procedure and prevents radiation escaping and entering the environment.
According to Goff, there is no need of additional adjustments to the already existing systems for handling nuclear waste or sterilization.
The method could be particularly attractive to countries, which face problems with storing and disposal of nuclear waste. In addition, the approach could help developing countries solve problems associated with preservation of foods and sterilization of medical supplies.