A team of scientists from the University of Strathclyde, Imperial College, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, ITU and the University of Jena have been able to successfully convert the nuclear waste product iodine 129 into a less dangerous substance.
Iodine 129 is a by-product produced by the nuclear power industry. It has a half life of 15.7 million years and is difficult to dispose of. Current practice involves encasing it in glass and burying it deep in the earth.
Using a laboratory laser they have been able to transmute iodine 129 into iodine 128, with a half life of 25 minutes. This allows it to be safe to handle and dispose of within 1 hour.
Work in the near future will involve scaling the process up to deal with commercial volumes of iodine 129, as well as applying the technology to other radioactive isotopes. The process will also be adapted to the production of pharmaceutical isotopes.
The findings from the team’s research will be published in the Institute of Physics, Journal of Physics D.