03 Oct 2016
Thirteen years after the EIS was first issued, and seven after the Yucca mountain project was formally ...
The high activity of isotope Am-243 has been problematic until Christopher J Dares et al, of the University of North Carolina, developed a low-energy electrochemical method to extract it from spent nuclear fuel. Am-243 becomes increasingly prevalent the more efficiently used the nuclear fuel is, and its middling half-life of 7370 years gives it its troublingly high activity, creating disposal problems that affect how much burn-up (fuel efficiency) reactors can achieve.
The method involves oxidising the isotope from the trivalent to the hexavalent and septivalent states, which causes it to be easily chemically separated from other lanthanides found in spent nuclear fuel. Remarkably, it achieves this at low energy levels and is flexible enough that a similar technique might be usable on other isotopes; giving waste managers more power than ever before to separate out their waste as they desire.