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Help with 'screamingly radioactive' storage tanks: Nonradioactive substitute created to aid nuclear waste clean-up

Synthetic goods are generally modeled on scarce but desirable materials -- diamonds, fine wools, even fruit juices.

Jim Krumhansl's offering to the world is a bit different. Krumhansl has created synthetic sludge.

Unappetizing, perhaps? You thought there was enough of the real thing? But the unusual product, which harmlessly mimics the deadly sludge found in underground nuclear waste storage tanks, could save U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in cleanup costs.

It will allow researchers to safely and cheaply determine which radioactive wastes will remain embedded in, and which will migrate from, the sludge found in waste storage tanks.

This should permit easy and relatively cheap decommissioning of some tanks at a cost of $10 million each, rather than "worst case" disposal, with maximum safeguards for every tank, of $65 million each. There are approximately 180 such tanks on Hanford Reservation in Washington State alone. A far fewer number are at the Savannah River site in South Carolina.

The work, to be reported at the American Chemical Society meeting on Aug. 23 in New Orleans, is an outgrowth of the February 1995 Galvin Report's suggestion that national laboratories find new science to cut down on the very large costs of projected environmental cleanup bills.

The artificial sludges consist of "nonradioactive representations of screamingly radioactive materials" that precipitate as a matter of course during storage in giant underground tanks that may contain up to a million gallons of nuclear waste, says Krumhansl, a Sandia researcher.

The sludges created by Krumhansl's research group are part of a joint project among the Department of Energy's (DOE) Sandia National Laboratories, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the University of Colorado.

Sludge that won't budge
Naturally occurring sludge sticks to the walls of tanks and could serve as a long-term source of radioactive contaminatio
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Contact: Dr. Neal Singer
nsinger@sandia.gov
505-845-7078
DOE/Sandia National Laboratories
23-Aug-1999


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