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Palladium Used To Transform Radioactive Waste Into Rare Earth Element

Events like Fukushima are urgent reminders of the need to develop new technologies to contain or neutralize radioactivity.

Dr. Yasuhiro Iwamura of the Advanced Technology Research Center at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan recently presented groundbreaking successes at a conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His new process (see schematic below) uses a permeable palladium film to transmute radioactive cesium into praseodymium.

Dr. Yasuhiro Iwamura

Praseodymium is a rare earth element used to produce high strength metal for aircraft engines; it is also used as a UV absorbing colorant in glass, and boosts the performance of neodymium in magnets, which are used in electric motors.

Tech Metals Insider spoke with Dr. Iwamura to learn more about the process and its implications.

“Our approach can be characterized by the permeation of D2 (deuterium) gas through the nano-structured Pd complex and the addition of an element that is specifically targeted to be transmuted,” he said. “Permeation of deuterium is attained by exposing one side of the Pd multilayer thin film to D2 gas while maintaining the other side under vacuum conditions.”

“Our main target is the remediation of nuclear waste”, explained Iwamura. “Producing energy from the process will be our next topic, but cost is an issue. It will be easier for our company to only solve the issue of nuclear waste remediation first. So our focus is on the transmutation.”

Will the process work on other radioactive substances? “I think our technology will apply to other nuclides. We already confirmed that cesium 133 transmuted into another element. According to our experimental results we can also transmute strontium 90 and other products to stable elements,” answered Iwamura.

At this moment, palladium is the only material that can be used to run the process. Iwamura expects the process can be scaled up within ten years, provided that a large enough budget will be available for the entire time period.

He concludes with confidence: “We will be able to transmute many nuclides and convert dangerous substances into harmless ones using our palladium film process.”

By Bodo Albrecht



Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of Kitco Metals Inc. The author has made every effort to ensure accuracy of information provided; however, neither Kitco Metals Inc. nor the author can guarantee such accuracy. This article is strictly for informational purposes only. It is not a solicitation to make any exchange in precious metal products, commodities, securities or other financial instruments. Kitco Metals Inc. and the author of this article do not accept culpability for losses and/ or damages arising from the use of this publication.
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