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New way to store nuclear waste, and cheaper
Updated: 2008-09-19 14:55

CANBERRA -- Australian scientists have found a new and cheaper way to filter and safely store nuclear waste.

Zhu Huaiyong, associate professor with Queensland University of Technology (QUT), told Xinhua on the telephone on Friday that his research team has discovered how to create nanofibres, which are millionths of a millimetre in size and can permanently lock away radioactive ions by displacing the existing sodium ions in the fibre.

"We have created ceramic nanofibres which attract and trap radioactive cations (positively charged ions), possibly forever," he said.

According to Zhu, the ceramic material can last much longer than the radioactivity of a radioactive ion. While other material such as plastic or steel, couldn't.

The discovery was particularly important as the world increased its reliance on nuclear energy, Zhu said.

The professor, who finished his college education in China, said waste water generated from the mining, nuclear purification as well reactors cooling system is a big problem. Conventionally the waste is stored in lakes or steel containers, which poses a danger of leakage and pollution to the surrounding.

The ceramic nanofibres are made from titanium dioxide, a mineral Australia abounds in and used in white paint. They are also much cheaper to make than metals like steel, and chemically stabler.

"The fibres are in very thin layers, less than one nanometre in width, and the radioactive ions are attracted into the space between the layers," he said.