A three-year effort to find a safe way to monitor the radioactive and hazardous wastes inside the giant tanks at the Hanford nuclear weapons facility in Washington has resulted in a novel idea and prototype for remote sensing. The results will be presented in a series of talks and poster presentations during the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans Aug. 22-26.
"They (the Department of Energy) want a sensor they can put in a tank and make lots of measurements more quickly, or leave it in there, and monitor what's going on over months or a year," explained University of Cincinnati Distinguished Research Professor William Heineman, one of the principal investigators on the DOE-funded project. The others are UC chemistry professors Tom Ridgway and Carl Seliskar.
The sensor is an improvement over existing sensors, because it contains an extra "dose" of selectivity.
"Most sensors only have one or two modes of selectivity," said chemistry graduate student Susan Ross.
"Our concept is new, because it actually has three."
In practical terms, that means the sensor has three different ways to find and identify the compound of interest. That's important, because the Hanford tanks are a jumbled mix of chemical and radioactive wastes.
"It's a really harsh, harsh mixture as far as sensors are concerned," said Ross who noted UC's experimental work demonstrated the sensor can hold up under conditions which simulate those in the Hanford tanks.
The target compound for the experiments was ferrocyanide, which was of high interest to the Department of Energy managers at the Hanford site because of the potential of ferrocyanide and nitrates reacting in a violent manner within the tanks. However, it has since been found that all the ferrocyanide was destroyed in the tanks, eliminating that threat.
However, other graduate students are adapting the basic design and concept to
monitor other compounds
as well. These include gluco
Contact: Chris Curran
University of Cincinnati