A recent study published by the journal Nature Chemistry reveals that a little-known element on the periodic table may actually help change the structure of radioactive material, reducing its toxicity and making it easier to store.
Discovered in the early 1950s in a lab at the University of California – Berkley, californium may potentially enable energy companies to better store and potentially recycle radioactive waste into fuel.
Safety is often a concern when people talk about the viability of nuclear energy as a source of electricity, and now, researchers from Florida State University are saying that californium may be just the thing to ease concerns about how nuclear waste is stored after its use.
Typically, the process of nuclear decay can take a long time, but californium bonds with various elements in nuclear waste making it less harmful and reducing the time period in which it breaks down into less harmful isotopes.
The U.S. Department of Energy, the federal agency responsible for storage of nuclear fuel has yet to identify long-term strategies for managing the disposal of uranium, used as fuel in nuclear plants. As such, most radioactive waste is stored at reactor sites.
Nuclear energy currently accounts for 20% of America’s energy production, and providers an efficient, affordable and renewable source of electricity. Policymakers and scientists, therefore, may want to work together more closely to discern whether californium can be used as part of a broader strategy to increase nuclear energy production, and the safe storage of used fuel, in the future.