Scientists Develop A Promising New Method For Cleaning Up The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster


Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster saw millions of gallons of water get contaminated with radioactivity. Unfortunately, the water wasn’t disposed off properly. The water can’t be dumped into the ocean as it’s highly toxic, and it must not be left in its place as it could seep into the soil.

To tackle this problem, a team of scientists from Rice University in Texas and Kazan University in Russia has been working for quite some time. They claim to have come up with a smart idea to dispose off the water safely. They plan to use a cheap material called oxidatively modified carbon (OMC), which removes the radioactive strontium and cesium out of the water. It purifies the water to a level that makes it safe to be poured back into the ocean.

C-seal-F. Image: Kazan Federal University

The system will work on a similar template as that of carbon or charcoal filtration system, but these filters can’t be used as they don’t work very well on heavy metals in the radioactive water. Previously, the same scientists suggested using graphene oxide to filter out radioactive strontium, but it couldn’t filter cesium. Graphene oxide was also pretty expensive, therefore, the researchers kept looking for another solution until they discovered OMC.

OMC is thought to be about ten times cheaper than graphene oxide. It can be easily manufactured from a carbon coke source called C-seal-F, or by using “shungite,” which is a naturally occurring rock in Northwestern Russia.

OMC filters were created using both sources and treating them with acids. This process created oxygen-rich surfaces for the metal contaminants, which were then passed through water spiked with strontium, cesium and other heavy metals. The scientists found out that 800 milligrams of the C-seal-F OMC removed 83 percent of the cesium and 68 percent of the strontium from 100 milliliters of the contaminated water, which is sufficient to make it safe for use. The results are published last week in the journal Carbon.

[Carbon via Rice University]

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