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Featured Photo: Trapped for thousands of years

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July 14, 2017 Share This!

  • Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory mix heated silica sand and chemicals with radioactive waste, a process called vitrification. Once the mixture cools, it can safely trap the waste for thousands of years.
    Credit: Andrea Starr / PNNL

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RICHLAND, Wash. — The molten glass pictured here is 11 times hotter than boiling water. Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory mix the heated silica sand and chemicals with radioactive waste, a process called vitrification. Once the mixture cools, it can safely trap the waste for thousands of years. The researchers designed this process for radioactive waste currently kept in aging underground tanks at the Hanford Site in southeastern Washington.

The glass here shows only a fraction of the technology's potential. Dual melters can pump out 30,000 kilograms of glass in a single day. That's as massive as six elephants.

Learn more about vitrification, and how the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory helps Hanford cleanup, from this column written by Laboratory Director Steven Ashby.

Tags: Environment, National Security, Environmental Remediation

PNNL LogoInterdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,400 staff and has an annual budget of nearly $1 billion. It is managed by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. As the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information on PNNL, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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