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discovered_02_2015 - Understanding the little things makes a big difference

WWW.HZDR.DE 22 23 TITLE // THE HZDR RESEARCH MAGAZINE To date there is no repository for highly radioactive, heat- emitting waste from nuclear facilities in Germany. Due to the federal government's National Repository Program, the future repository must ensure the best possible safety for a time period of one million years. It is for this very reason that plans are being made to deposit nuclear waste several hundred meters underground to shield the biological environment and the biosphere from it. "If we construct a repository in a rock layer underground, then we have to know how the radioactive elements will act in case water, for example, gets into the repository," says Peter Kaden of the HZDR Institute of Resource Ecology. He and his colleagues are interested in finding out how the radioactive metals from nuclear waste interact with organic and inorganic materials from their environment. This knowledge could lead to a better // Chemist Peter Kaden researches the bonding behavior of certain radioactive waste materials using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. The knowledge he obtains will be used to further the research in Rossendorf - one of the few locations worldwide engaged in such research. _TEXT . Sara Schmiedel UNDERSTANDING THE LITTLE THINGS MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE ELUCIDATION: Chemist Peter Kaden makes use of NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) spectroscopy for his research. Photo: Oliver Killig understanding of transport processes and help to establish effective barriers in repositories. This could serve to prevent the spread of radioactive materials in case of an emergency. Challenging proof The process of energy generation in nuclear reactors produces so-called actinides from the fuel uranium - elements such as plutonium and americium. Lanthanides are a group of elements that are physically and chemically similar to the actinides, they are predominantly not radioactive and therefore considerably easier to study. They can help scientists understand the chemistry of actinides as well. But not entirely. Peter Kaden and some of his former colleagues from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) showed for the first time that there are considerable differences in the bonding behavior of trivalent actinides in comparison to lanthanides. Theoretical considerations of the matter are already twenty years old. All that is lacking is clear experimental results to support these theses.