New Material can Make Spent Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing More Efficient

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Scientists from Rutgers University-New Brunswick have developed a much more efficient way to capture radioactive iodides that produced while reprocessing spent nuclear reactor fuel. The “molecular trap” designed by the scientists for the purpose is recycling and reusable. The material is like a miniature, porous super-sponge. The material is miraculously porous, with the internal surface area of its only one gram capable of stretching out over 23,500 square feet, covering, in other words, about five basketball courts of 94-by-50-foot dimension.

Once radioactive iodides are caught inside the material, they can remain trapped for eons. Jing Li, Prof. at the Chemical and Chemical Biology department and the corresponding author of a research on molecular traps for the reprocessing of nuclear fuels, states that materials of this type have immense potential owing to the high level of porosity. Such materials have much more space than typical sponges and can trap a lot of stuff. The first author of the study is Baiyan Li, who was earlier a postdoctoral associate with Li; other co-authors of the study include university’s doctoral students Benjamin J. Deibert and Hao Wang.

The U.S. does not have commercial nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities presently, the complex setups that help separate spent nuclear fuel into materials that can be further recycled or can be discarded as waste. Commercial facilities are operational in other countries. While spent nuclear fuel is being reprocessed, organic iodide gases and radioactive molecular iodine that have the potential of causing environmental risks and cancer need to be sequestered and captures.

In a bid to capture these molecules, these scientists have developed the molecular trap, with apparently a high level of performance. The researchers state that the performance of this material exceeds the standards that have been set by nuclear industry regulators.

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