British scientists are closing in on a design for cement that can contain radioactive waste from nuclear power plants for up to 100,000 years. The team from the Diamond Light Source facility hopes the innovation – thought to be 50 percent more effective at controlling radiation than other methods – will allow us to keep up with the demand for cleaner energy using nuclear power.
Britain has announced its plan to build several new nuclear power stations over the next few years, phasing out heavy reliance on gas, coal, and oil. The cleaner form of energy, however, leaves behind a nasty byproduct whose containment scientists have been constantly battling since the very beginning of nuclear power. The team’s plan is to build a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) deep underground where radioactive materials can be interred safely.
After a two year long study of cement’s absorption of water they believe they have found certain “mineral phases” in the material which absorb highly concentrated radioactive elements. This bodes well for keeping a solid barrier between nuclear waste and the outside world. Once the GDF location is decided upon and built, the team hopes the new cement will provide peace of mind by safely containing the estimated 300,000 cubic meters of waste thought to be produced in the UK by the year 2030. Approximately 11 percent of the electricity in the world comes from nuclear fission, a statistic which continues to grow. If this trend continues, it is in our best interest to find ways to safely handle any dangerous byproducts.