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Tokyo Electric Power Corp Tokyo Electric Power Corp's (TEPCO) official (C) and journalists wearing protective suits and masks stand in front of storage tanks for radioactive water in the H4 area, where radioactive water leaked from a storage tank in August, at the tsunami-crippled TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture November 7, 2013. REUTERS/Kimimasa Mayama/Pool  

Scientists say ‘californium’ could revolutionize radioactive waste storage and recycling

Will we soon be able to recycle radioactive fuel?

Florida State Professor Thomas Albrecht-Schmitt calls “californium,” or Cf on the Periodic Table of Elements, “wicked stuff” because of its incredible ability to bond and separate other materials along with its resistance to radiation damage.

Albrecht-Schmitt’s research could lead to new types of storage containers for radioactive waste and separate radioactive fuel — meaning fuel could be recycled.

“It’s almost like snake oil,” Albrecht-Schmitt, who led a team of researchers that made the discovery, told Phys.org. “It sounds almost too good to be true.”

There’s just one small problem, californium is exorbitantly expensive. Albrecht-Schmitt’s team got five milligrams of californium for $1.4 million after working with the Department of Energy for years to obtain the material.

“We’re changing how people look at californium and how it can be used,” Albrecht-Schmitt said.

Albrecht’s experiments were paid for by an endowment, but he also worked with theorists and scientists at nine other universities and institutes. The californium was supplied by the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Phys.org names the other scientists and researchers who helped Albrecht-Schmitt in his calculations: “David A. Dixon, professor of chemistry at the University of Alabama, and his graduate student, Ted Garner, provided the calculations and theory on why the californium could bond in such unique ways, while scientists at Argonne National Laboratory helped correlate the theory with the experiments. Evgeny Alekseev and Wulf Depmeier of Germany also provided an improved understanding on the atomic structure of californium.”

Albrecht-Schmitt’s work, “Unusual Structure, Bonding, and Properties in a Californium Borate,” was published in the latest edition of Nature Chemistry.

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