Techscream: Laser Waste Management

Coolest means of controlling radioactive waste that I’ve personally heard of: run it through lasers!

The laser ionized the gold to form a plasma and then accelerated the electrons in the plasma to relativistic energies. When the electrons struck the solid gold of the target they emitted gamma-rays as bremsstrahlung radiation. Ledingham and colleagues then placed a sample of nuclear waste containing radioactive iodine behind the gold target. Transmutation occurs when a gamma-ray ejects a neutron from a iodine-129 nucleus to leave behind short-lived iodine-128. Each laser shot produced about 3 million iodine-128 nuclei.

Article from


~ by Gonzo Mehum on February 11, 2009.

2 Responses to “Techscream: Laser Waste Management”

  1. Yeah, nuclear transmutation has been a slightly fringe area of research in nuclear waste management for a couple of decades. The problem is that the rate at which you can process waste is incredibly slow, so it ends up being too energy intensive for too little gain.

    It’s still a fun idea, though.

  2. Rats. Anything in the mechanics that might permit some large-scale usage?

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