Can Nuclear Fuel Waste Be Used For Good?
Nuclear engineering student Russell Goff thinks so...and he's just formed a company to turn spent fuel rods into components to be used in a safe sterilization facility.
Kecia Lynn has worked as a technical writer, editor, software developer, arts administrator, summer camp director, and television host. A graduate of Case Western Reserve University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she is currently living in Iowa City and working on her first novel.
What's the Latest Development?
Last month, Russell Goff, a graduate student in nuclear engineering at Oregon State University, incorporated a company that will offer safe sterilization of food and medical supplies using gamma rays emitted from used nuclear fuel rods. Each rod is enclosed in a special tube that keeps the dangerous radiation inside while letting the gamma rays escape. These contained rods would be stored in a building where items needing sterilization would be exposed via an overhead conveyance system.
What's the Big Idea?
Irradiating medical instruments and certain types of food using gamma rays is already a common practice, but the isotope most often used -- cobalt-60 -- has a limited supply. Meanwhile, each of the US' 104 nuclear reactors has a growing stockpile of spent fuel rods that are just sitting around. Goff says that those rods could generate at least $10 million but "the only thing people sitting in nuclear plants are thinking about is making electricity." Recovering gamma rays from the rods "could be a game changer when it comes to nuclear waste management." Fittingly, his company is called G-Demption.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com