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Research on safer storage of nuclear waste (Image 1)

Uranium 238 fluoresces under black light

Uranium 238 fluoresces under black light. Research performed in the lab of University of Iowa associate professor Tori Forbes in the Chemistry Department could lead to safer storage of nuclear waste. [See related image Here.]

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A growing research enterprise at the University of Iowa (UI) is working to address nuclear energy and waste.

Funded primarily by federal grants including from the National Science Foundation, the UI program has gathered a squadron of scientists -- in chemistry, engineering and radiology -- to determine how to deal with stored nuclear waste without damaging the environment or threatening human health, and to train the next generation of scientists to study and solve the issue.

The U.S. is facing a reckoning with its spent nuclear fuel. Nuclear waste is stored across the country in water-resistant metal tubes. But many of these tubes are decades old and have become susceptible to corrosion. If the waste -- all of it radioactive -- were to escape, the damage to the environment, and to people, could be significant.

"The issue is these casks are not meant to last for that long, and our nuclear waste is so radioactive that itís going to take hundreds of thousands of years before it decays to levels where itís safe," says Tori Forbes, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry at UI who established UIís nuclear research core. "So, we need to come up with a strategy to deal with the waste where we can make sure that itís stored safely, recycled, or reused."

Read more about this research in the UI news story University of Iowa establishes research group on nuclear energy and waste. (Date image taken: March 8, 2018; date originally posted to NSF Multimedia Gallery: Dec. 18, 2018)

Credit: Tim Schoon/University of Iowa

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