of Edinburgh scientists
have produced a previously unseen uranium molecule, in a move that could
improve clean up of nuclear waste.
The distinctive butterfly-shaped compound is similar to
radioactive molecules that scientists had proposed to be key components of
However, these were thought too unstable to exist for
Researchers have shown the compound to be robust, which
implies that molecules with a similar structure may be present in radioactive
Better clean up
scientists, who carried out the study, say their findings suggest the molecule
may play a role in forming clusters of radioactive material in waste.
These are difficult to separate during clean up.
Improving treatment processes for nuclear waste,
including targeting this type of molecule, could help the nuclear industry move
towards cleaner power generation.
Ideally, all the radioactive materials from spent fuel
can be recovered and made safe or used again.
This would reduce the amount of waste and curb risks to
Edinburgh team worked in collaboration with scientists in the United States and Canada to verify the structure of
the uranium compound.
They made the molecule by reacting a common uranium
compound with a nitrogen and carbon-based material.
Scientists used chemical and mathematical analyses to
confirm the structure of the molecule’s distinctive butterfly shape.
The study was published in Nature Chemistry.