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discovered_02_2015 - Bound in the depths: rock keeps radionuclides contained

WWW.HZDR.DE 12 13 TITLE // THE HZDR RESEARCH MAGAZINE // The plan is to dispose of radioactive waste in repositories deep beneath the Earth's surface. HZDR scientists are researching how radionuclides interact with the surrounding rock formation in such storage areas and thus how they can be prevented from spreading uncontrollably. More than 30 countries use nuclear power plants to generate power worldwide. This comes with the important responsibility of disposing of the radioactive waste generated from the operation of these power plants. Used up fuel elements have to be locked up until their degree of radioactivity has sunken to safe levels. This could take 100,000 years or more. In long-term safety analyses the time span of one million years has even been considered. During this time the radioactive waste will have to be kept away from humans, animals, and plants. The plan is to store highly radioactive waste up to 1,000 meters below the Earth's surface. Various geological formations, such as salt deposits, clay layers, or granite are being considered for this. The surrounding stone should be capable of ensuring that the radioactive substances do not migrate, even if technical barriers such as containers or cement lids give out physically over time or if water gets into the repository. It is this issue that Moritz Schmidt's Helmholtz junior research group examines in their research work. The group members study the geochemistry of actinides, which are radioactive elements such as plutonium. BOUND IN THE DEPTHS: ROCK KEEPS RADIONUCLIDES CONTAINED Text . Uta Bilow SPECTROSCOPY: Laser spectra can tell Moritz Schmidt and his colleagues from the junior research group a lot about the bonding properties of actinides with minerals and the surrounding rock formations. Photo: AVANGA