Tricky Plutonium Byproduct One Step Closer to Being Disposable

Well, what we all knew has been confirmed, refining plutonium to make nuclear weapons is pretty much a bad idea all around. But that’s not news. What is striking is that there are people that care enough to make progress on the literally tons of nuclear waste that can’t be disposed of.

At Washington State University a very bright young woman named Jamie Weaver has made headway in an area that has been giving nuclear disposal professionals quite a hard time. Apparently there is something nasty called technetium-99 and this brilliant bean sprout of a chemistry graduate student has made head way in helping us all to dispose of it.

Of course it would have been better if we never weaponized plutonium in the first place, but hey Pandora’s box is swung wide open now.

The project that Ms. Weaver worked on was led by John McCloy, who is associate professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. Some lovely folks from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), the Office of River Protection and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory were in on this too. We are sure glad that someone cares about all this waste.

Apparently there is 56 million gallons of nuclear waste sitting around at the Hanford Site nuclear complex in Washington state, Among that giant pile of really bad choices, there is about 2,000 pounds of technetium-99. While the DOE is building a waste treatment plant in Hanford, they really don’t know what to do with all of this technetium-99, which is in the plutonium.

Apparently there wasn’t much foresight in this whole “nuclear arms standoff”, and technetium-99 hasn’t been studied in around 50 years. So here we are with 56 million gallons of nuclear waste, all dressed up and no where to go.

This whole things just seems so shortsighted, and really shoddy on the planning side. Don’t get me wrong, thermonuclear war is such a good idea. Building up weapons that can wipe out population centers and make them uninhabitable, who would question the logic of that?

But to leave such a mess laying about…

It’s like children thought this whole thing up.

But good for all of you who are doing what they can to bail us out of this horrific situation. You are all wonderful human beings, and we wish you all the best. Please keep trying, there is so much radioactive waste. If we leave it lying about, someone will get into trouble with it.

No one wants a horrific situation to take a turn for the worse.

[via eurekalert]

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