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Japanese institute will try to extract precious metal from nuclear waste

  • November 17, 2017
  • , Nikkei Asian Review , 3:38 p.m.
  • English Press

TOKYO — One of Japan’s largest research institutes, Riken, will try converting the radioactive elements of nuclear waste into a precious metal.


The trial, which the institute hopes to kick off as early as 2018, is to confirm the theoretical possibility that radioactive materials can be changed by shooting a special beam into them, a procedure likened to “modern alchemy.”


Whether and when applications can be developed based on findings of the experiment remain unclear.


According to Riken, the goal is to find a way to reduce nuclear waste by turning it into a resource.


The experiment will be conducted at a facility in Wako, a city just northeast of Tokyo, as part of the government’s program to promote innovative research and development.


The institute will shoot deuteron beams at palladium-107, a radioactive isotope, to try and convert it into palladium-106, a precious metal commonly used in the catalytic converters of automobiles.


Nuclear waste can contain 300 grams of palladium-107 per ton. The isotope has a half-life of 6.5 million years.


In the experiment, nuclear waste-like samples will be used to find the ratio of palladium-107 that has been transformed into a precious metal or other substance.


Hopes are rising that the technology can be used to reduce and recycle nuclear waste.


Riken will expand its research in this area to other types of radioactive materials.

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