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12 Apr, 2008 02:16

Safe nuclear dump discovered

Russian geologists have discovered a new mineral which absorbs radiation from liquid nuclear waste. They are now striving to chemically clone it, in the hope it may help solve the problem of radioactive waste disposal.

The Khibinsky Mountains in the Arctic Circle are home to one of the world’s richest mineral quarries. About 10 per cent of all new minerals are discovered there – and the new one, Ivanukite, was no exception.

The new mineral was tested and named at the Kola Science Institute.

The geologist who discovered it, Viktor Yakovenchuk, says it’s capable of absorbing radioactive substances like caesium and rubidium from water-based solutions, and storing them inside.

And radioactive water would be completely safe after coming into contact with Ivanukite.

“It’s nature that is showing us a way to solve the problem of preserving those radioactive isotopes,” Yakovenchuk believes.

Had the mineral been available to scientists after the Chernobyl disaster, the consequences may have been different, as the main threat came from radioactive water.

Nuclear experts though say the mineral could have potential but many questions remain.

“The discovery of this mineral is a great thing, but how it will be used? How exactly will it absorb all nuclear waste – and where will it be stored after that?” asks Sergey Zhavoronkin, nuclear expert.

Scientists say they'd need tonnes of the mineral and so far they’ve only discovered a few grams.