A new research is aimed at the development of computer models that depict the interaction between radioactive waste and the soil. This new discovery can lead to new water disposal techniques and prevent drinking water from contamination.
A geoscientist professional told the press that not much is known about contaminants. This makes it difficult to predict if they will remain in the soil or flow away with water. In the past, many studies have been carried out on contaminants that include materials such as lead and arsenic. However, testing soil contaminant is difficult because the constituent minerals cannot be characterized by general methods.
Soils contain clay mineral with grains that are no more than 2 microns. Since this size is so small, they cannot be studied with a spectrometer or microscope. Thus, it cannot be determined if they are contaminated.
However, if a computer is utilized, the purpose can be achieved. The researchers have developed computer molecular models that allow soil testing. These models can be used to study the manner in which contaminants interact with minerals.
The researchers added that clay minerals are the result of the weathering process. They are actually generated from rocks due to physical and chemical weathering. Their properties make it easy for them to absorb many contaminants. Clay minerals comprise of aluminosilicate layers which are held together by an electrostatic force. When water enters these layers, they swell up and contaminants get adsorbed.
As of now, work is being done to determine the quantity of contaminants which can bind to the inner layers of clay and the force required for this. Once this has been determined, the researchers are hopeful that the computer models will lead onto the development of performance assessment tools, which the Environmental Protection Agency will really want to have. These tools can be used for depositing nuclear waste in a safe manner.
The government is already making use of molecular modeling to determine the most suitable waste treatment technology. This new research can provide them with new tools which will increase the accuracy of these techniques. The researchers stated that their work helps them quantify the adsorption of uranium into clay and can also indicate which clay type will act as a better barrier for waste transportation. Their methods will improve waste engineering.