Skip to Main Content U.S. Department of Energy
PNNL News Central

Featured Photo: Trapped for thousands of years

News Brief

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

1 of 1

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 LogoPacific Northwest National Laboratory is the nation's premier laboratory for scientific discovery in chemistry, earth sciences, and data analytics and for solutions to the nation's toughest challenges in energy resiliency and national security. Founded in 1965, PNNL is operated by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit PNNL's News Center. Follow us on FacebookInstagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

News Center

Multimedia

Additional Resources