The destination of nuclear waste has been a headache since plants began construction. They have been buried in controlled areas, and have even been tried to sink into marine trenches. The possibility of sending them into space to get away from us was even considered. And it is that the material that remains from the nuclear process maintains its radioactivity for a long time.
The plan of a team of scientists from the University of Bristol seems more productive, at first glance. It is about converting nuclear waste into batteries. But not just any. They would be batteries capable of lasting thousands of times as long as one of the conventional ones. A completely different scale than what we are used to seeing.
The dangerousness of nuclear waste has served as a stimulus to researchers at the University of Bristol. But this abstract risk acquires a more peremptory dimension when examining the situation in the United Kingdom, home of the academic centre. Most of the country’s nuclear power plants will have to be dismantled in the next 15 years.
Dismantling a nuclear power plant is a delicate job. So much so that now the tasks will be supported by robots of different types. These autonomous or semi-autonomous machines will be able to do repetitive tasks under high radiation. They are undesirable jobs for a person.
If part of this discarded material can be used, as the Bristol researchers point out, the benefit is twofold. The method discovered is based on the processing of carbon-14 isotopes.
Transform Nuclear Waste into Batteries
Scientists extract carbon-14 from nuclear waste. This isotope is radioactive, but it is also formed by the element that is the base of the diamond. And it is precisely this material that researchers want to reach.
Carbon-14 is obtained from waste from graphite, present as material for the nuclear reaction that takes place in a plant. Scientists heat the graphite residues and manage to release carbon-14. This is transformed into diamond by means of a set of low and high pressures.
The diamonds that are obtained generate an electric current and researchers have developed ultra-low consumption sensors to collect the energy that is given off. One way to convert nuclear waste into batteries.