Californium — Element Is Potential Game-Changer In Field Of Nuclear Waste Storage, Research Suggests

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

One of the least known — amongst the general public — elements of the periodic table, californium, may hold the key to the safe and effective long-term storage of nuclear/radioactive waste, according to new work from Florida State University.

The new work from chemists at that university has demonstrated that californium (Cf) has an “amazing” ability to bond and separate other materials, as well as being extremely resistant to radiation damage. A very interesting set of properties…

Image Credit: Florida State University
Image Credit: Florida State University

If you’re beginning to get the feeling that you’ve heard this all before, and wondering how useful any of this will really end up being, don’t worry, you’re not alone. The man behind the findings understands where you’re coming from.

“It’s almost like snake oil,” stated lead researcher Professor Thomas Albrecht-Schmitt. “It sounds almost too good to be true.”

But it apparently isn’t, and — according to Albrecht-Schmitt — should help researchers to design new, more-effective storage containers for radioactive waste, as well as likely aiding in the separation processes of radioactive fuel — potentially allowing for greater fuel recycling.

“This has real world application,” he reiterated. “It’s not purely an academic practice.”

“We’re changing how people look at californium and how it can be used.”

While the findings are certainly impressive, costs always need to be considered (even, or especially, with regard to things concerning nuclear waste). In this instance, the material in question is relatively expensive (the 5 milligrams used in this research cost $1.4 million), but not much of it necessarily necessary.

Despite the near-absolute necessity of beginning to deal with the issue of nuclear waste storage, if an approach is expensive, it will very likely not be used. We ‘ll keep you updated…

The new findings were just published in the latest edition of the journal Nature Chemistry.

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Our Latest EVObsession Video

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it!! So, we've decided to completely nix paywalls here at CleanTechnica. But...
Like other media companies, we need reader support! If you support us, please chip in a bit monthly to help our team write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech stories a day!
Thank you!

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

James Ayre has 4830 posts and counting. See all posts by James Ayre

4 thoughts on “Californium — Element Is Potential Game-Changer In Field Of Nuclear Waste Storage, Research Suggests

  • “the 5 milligrams used in this research cost $1.4 million”

    No it is way to costly to be a “game changer” in waste storage. Unless you need like 1 atom per ton of waste.

  • ” .. the material in question is relatively expensive (the 5 milligrams used in this research cost $1.4 million)..”
    If $280 million a gramme, or $280 billion a kilo, is “relatively” expensive for you, I don’t think I can afford to invite you to a restaurant you consider really expensive.

  • Californium is radioactive and is a component of nuclear waste. It has a 900 year half life and all of it is made in nuclear reactors.

    Tje main objective of the study was to better understand the chemistry of compounds made with elements heavier than uranium.

    Currently many countries are planning are are mixing the wast with a borosilicate glass. The resulting Glass waste mix is very stable and not water soluble. This will work well for at least a few hundred years bot over time scales of thousands of years we need a better understanding of the chemistry to determine what will happen. This study is the first step in resolving some of the questions about what will happen to the glass over very long periods of time.

    The other aspect o the improved chemistry understanding could be new methods for separating the various elements in the waste.. The methods we have now are good enough for waste recycling. Any new methods would have to cheaper to implement.

    This is not a game changer study

  • Just read the Nature Chemistry paper. It’s fascinating chemistry. The authors present evidence from UV-Vis and emission spectroscopy of covalency in the bonding of Cf-249 (in oxidation state 3) to borate anions. Density functional molecular orbital calculations give possible additional insight into their interpretations.

    Totally absent from the paper is anything to do with how Cf might be used for separations or storage of spent fuel of other elements. I can’t infer any such applications from the material in the paper, particularly since the claims reported above are so vague. It sounds like nearly complete hype to me.

    (By the way, Cf-249 has a half-life of 351 years, not 900 as stated in another comment.)

Comments are closed.