A new method developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory proves that one effort's trash is another's valuable isotope. One of the byproducts of the Department of Energy lab's national plutonium-238 production program is promethium-147, a rare isotope used in nuclear batteries and to measure the thickness of materials.
It's difficult and costly to dispose of waste containing radioactive elements left over after neptunium-237 targets are irradiated in the High Flux Isotope Reactor, a DOE Office of Science user facility, to produce Pu-238 for space exploration. But last year, a new ORNL project for the DOE Isotope Program began mining Pm-147 from the fission products left when Pu-238 was separated out of the target.
This effort's primary goal is to reestablish domestic production of Pm-147, which is in short supply, and it has a side benefit: reducing the concentrations of radioactive elements in the waste, so that it can be disposed of safely in simpler, less expensive ways both now and in the future.
To read more please visit: