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Caption: A Rutgers professor has proposed that radioactive waste can be immobilized in glass for millions of years.

A Rutgers professor has proposed a way to handle radioactive waste for millions of years by keeping it in glass.

Ashutosh Goel, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Material Science and Engineering at Rutgers University, wants to immobilize nuclear waste—the offshoot of decades of nuclear weapons production—in glass and ceramics.

“Glass is a perfect material for immobilizing the radioactive wastes with excellent chemical durability,” Goel said in a statement.

Researchers have searched ways to immobilize waste, particularly iodine-129, which has a half-life of 15.7 million years and can disperse rapidly in air and water, making it crucial for its safe storage and disposal in underground geological formations.

Iodine, which targets the thyroid gland and can increase the risk of getting cancer, will linger for millions of years if released into the environment.

Goel is the primary inventor of a new method to immobilize radioactive iodine in ceramics at room temperature and is either the principal investigator or the co-principal investigator for six glass-related research projects.

His inventions include mass producing chemically durable glasses to immobilize iodine without using high temperatures and synthesizing apatite minerals from silver iodine particles.

The research may eventually lead to ways to safely dispose highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel, which is currently being stored at commercial nuclear power plants.

“It depends on its composition, how complex it is and what it contains,” Goel said. “If we know the chemical composition of the nuclear waste coming out from those plants, we can definitely work on it.”

Editors Note: Day 2 of the 2016 R&D 100 Conference kicks off today! Stay tuned for more updates and please join us tonight for the awards reception!

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