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.