Sep 22, 2021

Nuclear waste interaction in the environment may be more complicated than once thought

Posted by in categories: chemistry, nuclear energy

Past and present nuclear activities (energy, research, weapon tests) have increased the urgency to understand the behavior of radioactive materials in the environment. Nuclear wastes containing actinides (e.g. plutonium, americium, curium, neptunium…) are particularly problematic as they remain radioactive and toxic for thousands of years.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists and collaborators proposed a new mechanism by which nuclear waste could spread in the environment.

The new findings, that involve researchers at Penn State and Harvard Medical School, have implications for nuclear waste management and environmental chemistry. The research is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

“This study relates to the fate of nuclear materials in nature, and we stumbled upon a previously unknown mechanism by which certain could spread in the environment,” said LLNL scientist and lead author Gauthier Deblonde. “We show that there are molecules in nature that were not considered before, notably proteins like ‘lanmodulin’ that could have a strong impact on radioelements that are problematic for management, such as americium, curium, etc.”

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