What is it about?

Radiocarbon (14C) is a naturally occurring long-lived radioactive isotope whose secular equilibrium is governed by cosmic rays interaction. It is also artificially generated in nuclear reactors and irradiation facilities, posing a risk to living organisms if not properly confined. The amount of 14C in the nuclear waste streams is difficult to quantify utilizing established techniques. This paper shows that an innovative laser-based technique, can be profitably used in the analysis of low 14C concentrations present in materials such as graphite and concrete, which are representative of large volumes of nuclear decommissioning waste.

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Why is it important?

The presented work has a huge impact on nuclear decommissioning, since the possibility of on-site measurement avoids the complex, often totally forbidden organization of radioactive transport, strongly reducing unnecessary radiological exposure. In many circumstances, precise determination of the 14C content in the decommissioning waste will allow for the clearance of large volumes of nuclear waste as conventional ones, not only reducing the overall cost but also, mitigating the environmental impact of nuclear waste management.

Perspectives

This publication is the main achievement of a joint effort between the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission and the National Institute of Optics (INO-CNR) of Italy.

Giacomo Insero
Department of Experimental and Clinical Biomedical Sciences "Mario Serio", University of Florence

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This page is a summary of: Precise radiocarbon determination in radioactive waste by a laser-based spectroscopic technique, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 2022, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2122122119.
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