Butterfly molecule may aid quest for nuclear clean-up technology

March 12, 2012

Scientists have produced a previously unseen uranium molecule, in a development that could help improve clean-up processes for nuclear waste.

The distinctive butterfly-shaped compound is similar to radioactive molecules that scientists had proposed to be key components of nuclear waste, but were thought too unstable to exist for long.

Researchers have shown the compound to be robust, which implies that molecules with a similar structure may be present in radioactive waste.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh, who carried out the study, say this suggests the molecule may play a role in forming clusters of radioactive material in waste that are difficult to separate during clean-up.

Improving treatment processes for nuclear waste, including targeting this type of molecule, could help the nuclear industry move towards cleaner power generation, in which all the radioactive materials from spent fuel can be recovered and made safe or used again. This would reduce the amount of waste and curb risks to the environment.

The Edinburgh team worked in collaboration with scientists in the US and Canada to verify the structure of the uranium compound. They made the molecule by reacting a common uranium compound with a nitrogen and carbon-based material. Scientists used chemical and mathematical analyses to confirm the structure of the molecule's distinctive butterfly shape.

The study, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the EaStCHEM partnership and the University of Edinburgh, was published in Nature Chemistry.

Professor Polly Arnold of the University of Edinburgh's School of Chemistry, who took part in the research, said: "We have made a molecule that, in theory, should not exist, because its bridge-shaped structure suggests it would quickly react with other chemicals. This discovery that this particular form of uranium is so stable could help optimise processes to recycle valuable radioactive materials and so help manage the UK's nuclear legacy."
-end-


University of Edinburgh

Related Nuclear Waste Articles from Brightsurf:

Reducing radioactive waste in processes to dismantle nuclear facilities
Margarita Herranz, professor of nuclear engineering at the UPV/EHU, leads one of the working groups in the Europe H2020 INSIDER project.

Nuclear medicine and COVID-19: New content from The Journal of Nuclear Medicine
In one of five new COVID-19-related articles and commentaries published in the June issue of The Journal of Nuclear Medicine, Johnese Spisso discusses how the UCLA Hospital System has dealt with the pandemic.

Are salt deposits a solution for nuclear waste disposal?
Researchers testing and modeling to dispose of the current supply of waste.

Taking a bite out of food waste: Scientists repurpose waste bread to feed microbes
Food waste is a serious economic and environmental problem. Researchers have developed a protocol using waste bread as a medium to grow microorganisms for the fermented food industry.

Current model for storing nuclear waste is incomplete
The materials the United States and other countries plan to use to store high level nuclear waste will likely degrade faster than anyone previously knew, because of the way those materials interact, new research shows.

Unused stockpiles of nuclear waste could be more useful than we might think
Chemists have found a new use for the waste product of nuclear power -- transforming an unused stockpile into a versatile compound which could be used to create valuable commodity chemicals as well as new energy sources.

Researchers perfect nanoscience tool for studies of nuclear waste storage
Studying radiation chemistry and electronic structure of materials at scales smaller than nanometres, the University of Guelph team prepared samples of clay in ultra-thin layers.

Deep learning expands study of nuclear waste remediation
A research collaboration between Berkeley Lab, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Brown University, and NVIDIA has achieved exaflop performance with a deep learning application used to model subsurface flow in the study of nuclear waste remediation.

Nuclear physics -- probing a nuclear clock transition
Physicists have measured the energy associated with the decay of a metastable state of the thorium-229 nucleus.

Electrospun sodium titanate speeds up the purification of nuclear waste water
Electrospun sodium titanate speeds up the purification of water based on selective ion exchange -- effectively extracts radio-active strontium.

Read More: Nuclear Waste News and Nuclear Waste Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.