New material can aid in nuclear cleanup

Nov. 2, 2011 at 7:39 PM
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BRISBANE, Australia, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Australian researchers say they've developed new technology that can remove radioactive material from contaminated water following nuclear disasters.

Scientists at Queensland University of Technology say their absorbent material, using nanofiber and nanotube technology, can efficiently lock in deadly radioactive material from contaminated water and can be safely disposed of without risk of leakage, even if the material becomes wet.

"One gram of the nanofibers can effectively purify at least one ton of polluted water," researcher Huai-Yong Xhu Zhu said. "This saves large amounts of dangerous water needing to be stored somewhere and also prevents the risk of contaminated products leaking into the soil."

The technology works by forcing contaminated water through the fine nanotubes and fibers that trap the radioactive Cesium through a structural change, a university release said Wednesday.

With the global debate about the safety of nuclear energy, now is the time to put safeguards in place, Zhu said.

"Even if we decide that nuclear energy is not the way we want to go, we will still need to clean up what's been produced so far and store it safely," he said.

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