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Rice University Figures Out Ways to Extract Radioactive Material From Water Following Fukushima

When the nuclear accident happened at Japan’s Fukushima Diachi plant in March 2011, radioactive material spilled into the surrounding waters there. Now, researchers at Rice University have discovered how to remove that radioactivity — in a move that could purify hundreds of millions of gallons of contaminated water that have been stored there.

Kazan Federal University in Russia was also a part of the effort, which found that their oxidatively modified carbon (OMC) material is inexpensive and highly efficient at absorbing “radioactive metal cations, including cesium and strontium, toxic elements released into the environment,” said Rice University, in a news release. 

“OMC can easily trap common radioactive elements found in water floods from oil extraction, such as uranium, thorium and radium,” said Rice chemist James Tour, who led the project with Ayrat Dimiev, a former postdoctoral researcher in his lab and now a research professor at Kazan Federal University, the news release adds. 

While three working nuclear units survived at Fukushima the initial earthquake, the subsequent tsunami knocked them all out by killing the backup power that cools the radioactive fuel rods. Without such power, the reactor’s core suffers a meltdown and deadly radiation can escape.

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