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Thread: Speeding up nuclear decay

  1. #1 Speeding up nuclear decay 
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    Nuclear waste takes a long time to decay especially considering the human lifetime. So I was wondering, what if we used elements that are highly radio active with short half-lives, to induce the reaction in these longer half-life elements to force them to decay faster?

    Would that work or is there something in physics that would prevent it?


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    deleted post (helps if I read the question)


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  4. #3 Re: Speeding up nuclear decay 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Haasum
    Nuclear waste takes a long time to decay especially considering the human lifetime. So I was wondering, what if we used elements that are highly radio active with short half-lives, to induce the reaction in these longer half-life elements to force them to decay faster?

    Would that work or is there something in physics that would prevent it?
    To the best of my knowledge there is no such physics.
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  5. #4  
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    Nuclear reactors use the radio active decay to force other atoms to decay using the expelled neutrons, thus generating heat to turn the water into steam. When the element decays enough eventually it gets to a stable element.

    Do the radioactive elements that have shorter half-lives not emit the neutrons required to force the heavier elements to decay?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Haasum
    Nuclear reactors use the radio active decay to force other atoms to decay using the expelled neutrons, thus generating heat to turn the water into steam. When the element decays enough eventually it gets to a stable element.
    No. Nuclear reactors use fission. The neutrons cause the atom to break apart into smaller atoms. For instance, U235 can break into Krypton and Barium. Only certain isotopes are fissile and can be made to do this while releasing energy. The smaller by-products of the initial fission are not generally fissionable themselves and undergo normal decay through a decay series. Pumping neutrons into them will more often then not just produce a heavier isotope that will decay into another radioactive isotope with its own decay series.
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  7. #6  
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    Ah I see, and it's these secondary elements that are causing us the issue with how to deal with them, not so much how to deal with the leftover uranium and plutonium once the rods need to be replaced.

    I knew there must have been something stopping it from working. I can't imagine I would be the first person to think of this. I just didn't know what was stopping it.

    We as of yet don't know of a way to force these secondary materials to decay other than time, right?
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  8. #7  
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    Haasum: check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TerraPower who propose a type of reactor that consumes nuclear waste. Also see http://newenergyandfuel.com/http:/ne...erview-update/ re thorium reactors, where we can read this:

    "Another thorium reactor opportunity is thorium consumes its own hazardous waste. It can even scavenge the plutonium left by uranium reactors, acting as an eco-cleaner."
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  9. #8  
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    Good deal sounds like thorium could be promising.
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  10. #9  
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    It does that. I'm surprised it hasn't attracted serious interest. Here's an interesting little blog: http://lftrsuk.blogspot.com/
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  11. #10  
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    Mayby its because of the high energy cost or that the same laws doesn't apply to atoms,
    but wouldn,t the halfling period be reduce if an atom is accelerated, in a particel accelerator?
    I mean E=MC2:P
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  12. #11  
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    this artical might be of interest

    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/25446
    Last edited by a93h201; January 19th, 2012 at 11:07 AM. Reason: code shown not message
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Janus View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Haasum
    Nuclear reactors use the radio active decay to force other atoms to decay using the expelled neutrons, thus generating heat to turn the water into steam. When the element decays enough eventually it gets to a stable element.
    No. Nuclear reactors use fission. The neutrons cause the atom to break apart into smaller atoms. For instance, U235 can break into Krypton and Barium. Only certain isotopes are fissile and can be made to do this while releasing energy. The smaller by-products of the initial fission are not generally fissionable themselves and undergo normal decay through a decay series. Pumping neutrons into them will more often then not just produce a heavier isotope that will decay into another radioactive isotope with its own decay series.
    Though it IS possible that this series will have more rapid decay overall?
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    Though it IS possible that this series will have more rapid decay overall?
    Thing is that if some process could force a faster decay, it would mean a more intense rate of energy release up to a point where it becomes viable to use as nuclear fuel in a power plant, i.e. the consumption of waste materials.

    The kind of half-life reduction talked about in post #11 implies a MASSIVE increase in the rate of energy release, which would make it impractical to just store it away afaik.
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    Thank you for the clarification.
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