Handling Nuclear Waste

Today, most nuclear waste can be found within the concrete bunkers of nuclear facilities. Thousands of metal barrels are meant to be the final resting place for the contaminated materials. However, overtime and as rain water breeches the sealed containers and percolates with the fission by-product, the barrels decay and the highly toxic substance leeches into the clay, the soil and the subterranean water table leaving devastation in its wake. A more permanent scheme needs to be found. Dr. David Shoesmith, Director of Surface Science Western, is exploring the development of a means by which nuclear waste can be stored for 10,000 years.

Dr. Shoesmith's lab is looking primarily at the external factors that influence the structural integrity of the metal barrels used for storage and are applying the electrochemical techniques available at Surface Science Western to test materials under hostile conditions such as in very hot, harsh environments. Their aim is to develop barriers that remain intact long enough to allow radioactivity to decay to a non-toxic level. 

Meet Balsam Ibrahim, a recent graduate of the Shoesmith lab.