Transmutations of Nuclear Waste
Robert A. NELSON
The disposition of nuclear waste is one of the most serious technical challenges facing humanity. Long-term storage is not acceptable, yet it is all that we can do with the mess at this time. Meanwhile, many physicists are developing methods to render nuclear waste inactive by various forms of transmutation, the conversion of one element into another.
The rapid transmutation of radioactive elements to stable daughter elements can be accomplished in several ways. The first such method was proposed by Dr. Radha Roy (Physics Dept, Arizona State Univ.) in 1979. He used a linear accelerator to generate x-rays that knocked nuclei from the target elements (Cesium-137 and Strontium-90), resulting in short-lived isotopes. His work received notice in the New York Times in 1982 (April 6 & 13). Only 20 year later, the Los Alamos National Laboratory is developing a project for "Accelerator Transmutation of Waste". A prototype plant will be constructed within five years. Two US Patents have been granted for the transmutation of nuclear waste with thermal neutron flux: #5,160,696 and #4,721,596 to Charles Bowman and Richard Marriott, et al., respectively.
Scientists at Europe’s CERN facility also are experimenting with "sub-critical" nuclear reactions (they cease when not being triggered by a linear accelerator) that curtail radioactivity. The proposed European system has been named "Energy Amplifier" by Carlo Rubbia, the Nobel Prize winning physicist who designed it. The CERN website offers this explanation of their efforts:
"Intense linear accelerators would allow transmutation of long-lived nuclear waste which rapidly decays to become harmless or alternatively provide the beam which drives the Energy Amplifier -- a failsafe form of nuclear reactor using relatively innocuous thorium as its fuel."
The CERN Energy Amplifier would work by inserting tubes of radioactive isotopes into a block of lead. Protons fired into the lead by a linear accelerator would generate high-energy neutrons that would fission the target waste. When the neutrons pass through the resonant energy levels of the target isotopes, they trigger transmutation reactions. The molten lead also would serve to cool the system by its passage through a heat exchanger, and the waste heat could be used to generate electricity. The corrosive lead will be bubbled with oxygen to allow the formation of a protective coat of oxide on the reactor walls. The system has been criticized as too complex, and to date the researchers have only performed simulations and conducted a few experiments on isolated aspects of the system. For example, the CERN scientists have transmuted Technetium-99 in a lead block.
The Americans and Europeans refuse to cooperate on the project; each group claims the other has copied their ideas.
In August 2003, Ken Ledingham (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow) announced in the Journal of Physics (D: Applied Physics) that the transmutation of nuclear waste had been accomplished by means of the giant Vulcan laser (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxfordshire). The toxicity of a few million atoms of iodine-129 was reduced by a factor of 100 in just a few minutes. The end product iodine -128 has a halflife of only25 minutes, while the halflife of iodine -129 is 15.7 million years. The Vulcan laser fired a pulse of a million billion watts at a gold target, which generated gamma rays that detached neutrons from I-129, resulting in I-128.
According to Ledingham, the technique could be applied to other radioactive wastes such technetium-99, strontium-90 and caesium isotopes. A different process would be required for plutonium and americium and other radioactive isotopes. The laser process, however, requires enormous amounts of power. The Vulcan laser would have to be fired 1017 times to transmute all the atoms of the 46-gram target mass.
Research team member Karl Krushelnick, a laser physicist (Imperial College, London), said, "You would need to build a number of power stations to transmute the waste from another power station".
Although the laser opens a new pathway to the deactivation of nuclear waste, it also requires that the spent reactor fuel be reprocessed. Ian McKinley, from the Swiss company, Nagra, which processes nuclear waste, reprocessing is "extremely expensive and increasingly unpopular".
Fortunately, there are several other, relatively simpler ways to solve the problem. Soon after Pons and Fleischman announced the discovery of Cold Fusion (CF) in 1989, researchers began to announce the anomalous production of elements, beginning with helium and tritium and continuing into the heavy atoms. By 1995, about 120 papers had reported the CF production of tritium in experiments with palladium. During the same period, several scientists developed applications of CF for the remediation of nuclear waste.
Early in 2000, Dr. S.X. Jin, Chief Scientist at Trenergy, Inc., announced his design for a new type of proton particle accelerator that would generate up to one million times greater proton density at the target than any existing particle accelerators. Hal Fox, editor of the Journal of New Energy in which the report appeared, offered his opinion of the new technology:
"In my judgement, the development of this new technology would allow for the on-site transmutation of high-level radioactive wastes into stable elements. Billions of dollars can be saved by not packaging, transporting and storing these wastes in geological storage for 10,000 years."
In the early 1990s, physicist Ken Shoulders received five patents for his discovery of the High Density Charge Cluster (HDCC), "a relatively discrete, self-contained, negatively charged, high density state of matter... [a bundle of electrons that] appears to be produced by the application of a high electrical field between a cathode and an anode" (i.e., 2-10 kv at the tip of a sharply pointed electrode). It can also be described as "a spherical monopole oscillator". Shoulders has given it the name "Electrum Validum" (EV), meaning "strong electron", derived from the Greek "elektron" (electronic charge) and the Latin "valere" (to be strong, having power to unite). Shoulders also invented a method of Plasma-Injected Transmutation for the remediation of nuclear waste by EVs. He has demonstrated the complete elimination of radioactivity in high-level nuclear material. (1-4)
EVs apparently function as a collective accelerator with sufficient energy to inject a large group of nuclei into a target and promote nuclear cluster reactions. The composition of EVs allows for the inclusion of some 105 nuclides. Ions can be added to EVs until the net charge becomes positive. Such EVs are called Nuclide-EVs (NEVs). Shoulders states:
"The NEV acts as an ultra-massive, negative ion with high charge-to-mass ratio. This provides the function of a simple nuclear accelerator. Such nuclear reactions are fundamentally an event involving large numbers and not one of widely isolated events working at an atomic level."
Shoulders offers an ad hoc explanation of these results as being "due largely to a nuclear cluster reaction having an unknown form of coherence."
Other researchers (Rod Neal, Stan Gleeson, "The Cincinatti Group", William Barker, etc.) also applied for patents on similar applications. The Neal-Gleeson Process has been shown to stabilize naturally radioactive solutions of thorium and uranium compounds up to 70% within a few hours in an electrochemical reactor. Thorium can be fissioned into mercury and neon. Valve metals (whose oxides emit electrons) can be excited to produce galvano-luminescence in aqueous solution. When the charge gradient exceeds a critical threshold of 1 MeV, sparks are produced in the form of charge clusters that are believed to be the active mechanism in this method of transmutation.
In their reports of the experimental results, Neal and Gleeson, et al., noted:
"Because there is a close agreement between the reduction in thorium and the reduction of radioactivity of the thorium daughter products, it is assumed that the Neal-Gleeson Process has about the same capability to change both thorium nuclei and the nuclei of the daughter products into other elements which are not radioactive...
"A process which can cause the higher atomic number elements to be split into smaller elements appears to be a desirable method by which certain radioactive elements can be handled. It is highly desirable to be able to select process-control parameters so that only stable daughter nuclei of the parent elements are produced. In this way, the radioactivity of today's highly radioactive slurries can be ameliorated."
Australian inventor Yull Brown developed a novel method of electrolyzing water to produce a compressed stoichometric mixture of hydrogen and oxygen ions (popularly known as "Brown's Gas") that is burned in a 2:1 ration. Since the early 1980s, Yull Brown claimed to be able to transmute radioactive material into inert forms by fusing it in the flame produced by his hyfuel. His patents mention that "The invention also relates to atomic welding..." (USP 4,014,777 and 4,081,656).
Yull Brown's first successful experiment with Co60 radionuclides reduced the activity by about 50% in 10 minutes. The process was replicated by the Baotou Nuclear Institute (China) in 1991.
In a demonstration witnessed by former US Congressman Berkeley Bedell, the radioactivity of Americium was quickly reduced by 2500% with Brown's torch. The Geiger counter reading registered 16,000 curies/minute before, and less than 100 curies/minute after treatment. Congressman Bedell said:
"It has been my good pleasure to witness experiments done by Prof. Yull Brown in which it appeared to me that he significantly reduced the radioactivity in several nuclear materials. Under the circumstances, I believe it is very important for our federal government to completely investigate Dr. Yull Brown's accomplishments in this area."
If the US government is completely investigating Brown's Gas, it is doing so in complete secrecy.
In August 1992, Yull Brown made another demonstration before several members of the Department of Energy and Hon. Dan Haley at the request of Congressman Bedell. The Geiger counter reading from Co60 was reduced to 0.04% of the original level.
Another demonstration was conducted for a group of Japanese nuclear scientists, at which time Co60 was reduced from 24,000 mR/hr to 12,000 mR/hr with one brief treatment. (5-7)
Paul Brown (Nuclear Solutions, Aurora CO) has developed a novel method to remediate nuclear waste by photonuclear reaction with gamma rays. The technology utilizes principles of physics --- giant dipole resonance --- that have been overlooked in their possible application in treatment of nuclear waste. Brown states:
"Photonuclear reactions induced by gamma ray absorption by the nucleus, do not suffer the shortcomings of neutron reactions. Simply stated, the process is gamma irradiation with energies greater than the binding energy of the neutron to the nucleus. That is, a gamma photon of an energy equal to or greater than the binding energy which comes close to the nucleus is absorbed through giant dipole resonance resulting in the emission of a neutron. This well-known nuclear reaction has dramatic application to waste remediation...
"The neutrons produced by the (¡,h) processing may in turn be used for neutron transmutation by the processes... For many fission products the neutron capture cross sections in a thermal spectrum can give substantial transmutation rates..."
Brown has proposed another application of giant dipole resonance in a theoretical "Photon Reactor" that would produce power by burning nuclear waste:
"A linear accelerator, preferably of the monochromatic type, accelerates electrons which are directed onto a high Z target such as tungsten to generate gamma rays about 9 MeV, which are directed onto the fuel material such as U-238 which results in the (g,¦) reaction, thus releasing about 200 MeV. A reactor built according to this principle requiring an accelerator driven by 1 MeV will develop about 20 MW of power. The reaction is not self-sustaining and stops when the beam is turned off. This accelerator driven reactor may be used to burn up spent fuel from fission reactors, if simply operated at 10 MeV. The photo-fission results in typical spent fuel waste products such as Cs137 and Sr90, which undergo photodisintegration by the (g,¦) resulting in short-lived or stable products. Chemical separation of the spent fuel isotopes is not necessary..." (8)
Gerardo International, Inc. is developing an Accelerated Decay Energy Converter (ADEC). The system utilizes stimulated radioactive decay to extract electrical energy directly from the atom:
"ADEC does not change the mechanism of spontaneous radioactive decay; it changes the probability of which atoms will undergo decay and when the decay will occur. As atoms exhibit no statistical memory, the event of a neighboring atom's spontaneous decay in no way influence the likelihood or unlikelihood of decay of a selected atom. As the extraction of power from the nuclear is accelerated, the material's natural emissive lifetime will be exhausted in direct relation."
Ronald Brightson (Clustron Sciences) has presented theoretical and experimental evidence for the validity of his own "Nucleon Cluster Model" (NCM), which predicts that a relatively low-energy photon can promote a nuclear reaction under certain specific conditions. Brightson analyzed the periodicities and systematics of atomic numbers and masses and deduced that all b-stable nuclides are composed of deuterons (NP clusters), tritons (NPN), and He3 (PNP) nuclei. His patent application includes a method of remediating nuclear waste by the induction of fission in the radioactive isotopes. The imposition of an external magnetic field in resonance with the magnetic moment of a particular nucleon cluster (NP, NPN, PNP) can excite the select cluster (without disturbing other clusters in the target) to burst from the nucleus and perform a transmutation to daughter products of smaller mass and greater stability.
A catalytic process for transmutative remediation of nuclear waste was invented by Jack Keller in 1993.
Roberto Monti (Burns Development Ltd.) announced a method of transmutation to neutralize radioactive material at a congress on low-energy transmutation (ICCF-5 in Monaco) in 1996. He utilized ignition methods such as those developed by Joe Champion. When Monti applied the treatment to nuclides, the radioactivity was greatly reduced after the ignition.
In their analysis of the "energy gain and nuclear transmutation by low energy p- or d-reactions in metal lattices", Heinrich Hora, George Miley, and J. Kelly offered hope for the transmutation of nuclear waste and plutonium:
"One can actively incorporate nuclides into the surface area of the active metals or nearby. These additional nuclides can then be subject to low-energy nuclear transmutation...
"One application of the mentioned transmutation is the long-lived nuclear waste from nuclear fission reactors... It is an important aim to make plutonium fully extinct by nuclear transmutation into chemically different nuclei... These kinds of nuclear transmutations are indeed possible by using ion beams... of more than 10 MeV per nucleon or spallation processes with up to 10 GeV protons. In view of the very expensive accelerators needed for this purpose, and [because] the ion currents are very small, there is no economic possibility in sight from this method. The invention described in this (Clean Energy Technology) patent [for] the low-energy transmutation by protons provides a low cost method for converting the long-lived waste nuclides and plutonium into harmless non-radioactive elements." (9)
Beginning in 1958, Russian geophysicist Dr. Georgiy S. Rabzi developed methods of transmutation that combined geo-electric and artificial fields and temperature control to direct transmutation in solids and liquids. For example, a 99.5% Pb was treated at 650oC to yield up to 3% Ag, plus Cd and Ge (15 March 1994). No radioactivity was observed in any of the experiments. At the ICCF-5 meeting, Dr Rabzi claimed that his "natural cold fission" is a safe method with which to stabilize nuclear waste.
Numerous reports in the literature of physics describe deviations (from 0.1 to 5%) from the standard constant decay rates of natural radioactivity, some by extra-nuclear influences (including the human mind). Physicists Elizabeth Rauscher, Glen Rein, and associates have investigated the interactions of Co60 with non-Hertzian energies such as the scalar fields generated by the "Smith Coil" (a Caduceus-wound coil invented by Canadian engineer Wilbur B. Smith in the 1960s). When energized (3 mA/5 W), The non-inductive Smith Coil (8.2 ohms) reduced the background radiation by 97% (from 0.5 mR/hr to 0.0015 mR/hr). Yet when applied to Co60, the radioactivity increased from 150 to 250 mR/hr! (10)
Gerardo International, Inc. has developed an "Accelerated Decay Energy Converter" (ADEC) that makes use of stimulated nuclear decay to directly extract electrical energy from radioactive material. ADEC changes the probability of atomic decay and its timing: "As atoms exhibit no statistical memory, the event of a neighboring atom's spontaneous decay in no way influence the likelihood or unlikelihood of decay of a selected atom. As the extraction of power from the nuclear material is accelerated, the material's natural emissive lifetime will be exhausted in direct relation."
A few other exotic possibilities may exist for the transmutation of nuclear waste, such as the radionic transmutations demonstrated by the amazing DeLaWarr Camera. Tom Beardon and others have recommended the use of scalar interferometry to withdraw energy from the nucleus in a gentle manner, or by outright dematerialization. (11)
Thomas Bearden proposes a method that "may be used to hasten the decay of long-lived and dangerous radioactive isotopes" in his US Patent Application, "Method, System & Apparatus for Conditioning EM Potentials, Fields & Waves to Treat & Alter Matter":
"A further discussion will explain the particular mechanisms involved in modifying the decay rates of nuclear materials. Nuclear physics models assume that, within a heavy slow-decaying nucleus, there are particles that "rattle around" a very large number of times before spontaneously tunneling through the surface and escaping, to provide ? decay. For the long-lived decay of 238U, e.g., the ? particle must present itself at the barrier some 1038 times before it succeeds in tunneling through. Hence an ?-decay will likely occur on the average of once every 4 billion years! The disintegration energy of this long-lived 238U nucleus is 4.25 MeV. However, the transmission coefficient of a barrier is very sensitive to small changes in the total energy of the particle seeking to penetrate it. As an example, a change in the disintegration energy to 6.81 MeV results in barrier penetration of the ? particle very quickly -- indeed, in only 9.1 minutes. By use of time-density charging, it is straightforward to raise the disintegration energy of an otherwise long-lived 238U isotope to 6.81 MeV or even higher, after a certain longitudinal EM wave radiation time. (In this instance, the addition of necessary phase conjugates to accomplish time-density charging happens in the vicinity of the irradiated nuclear mass.) It follows that a readily usable process can be designed to decay the long lived 238U isotope quickly, and similarly with other radioactive isotopes having very long half-lives. Indeed, "mixes" of appropriate spacetime curvature engines can be designed to minimize actual radioactive emission, with the vacuum itself undergoing energetic processes that accept the excess energy in virtual state rather than radiating it away into 3-space as observable transversely-polarized nuclear decay contaminants. Nuclear wastes can be irradiated at a safe distance by an interferometer such as 1600. Alternatively, the interferometer 1600 can condition the local vacuum in a specified disposal region by projecting the desired spacetime curvature engines, which become imposed on matter in the region by time-charging and subsequently emitted over a period of time through the process of excitation decay. Then the isotopes to be nullified can just be transported into the area and "parked" there while the conditioned active vacuum performs the necessary nullifying electronuclear interactions.
"Fig. 19 shows an apparatus that may serve to alter and nullify hazardous chemical wastes by creating time-reversal zones within a reaction vessel. A time-reversal zone has the characteristic of reversing the electrical attraction and repulsion forces upon many charges within the zone. In such a zone, a hydrogen bond may become an anti-hydrogen-bond, thus loosening the bonds. As the bonds break, the chemicals may be altered to harmless new forms. As an example, the H-bond interactions in a hazardous chemical compound are due to protons. As time passes and the time-reversal zone strengthens due to time-density charging, the exposed hydrogen ions (protons) in the chemical acquire additional time-density charge, whereupon some begin to repel (due to the time-reversal of their attraction) while others continue to attract (due to the remaining time-forward component). As the time-reversal strengthens, repulsion equals and overtakes attraction, thereby dissolving the H-bond. The chemical thereby separates into component parts and component chemicals. Exposure can continue until the remaining chemical byproducts are harmless. In this manner, hazardous chemicals including dangerous chemical warfare agents may be rendered harmless. For the safety of operating personnel, the time-reversal zone may be established inside a protective reaction vessel from a little distance away..."
Radioactivity also can be increased by simple means. The German Dr. Alois Gaschler applied for a British patent in 1925 for the enrichment of uranium by a treatment with several kilowatts of direct current:
"The behavior of uranium and thorium and their salts in the electric arc and in the glow discharge has been examined. In no case could there be observed an alteration in the radioactivity or in the chemical activity. A perceptible transmutation effect was, however, unexpectedly found when strong rushes of momentary high-tension currents were sent through a narrow fused quartz tube provided with tungsten electrodes and containing mercury and uranium oxide. The tube was fixed vertically in a stand, so that the mercury filled the lower part of the tube and one tungsten electrode was completely covered by it. On the surface of the mercury was a relatively thin coating of uranium oxide which had been carefully freed from radioactive by-products, especially from uranium-X, before it was introduced into the quartz tube. The sparking distance between the tungsten electrode and the mercury-uranium oxide electrode was about 15 cm. The intensity of the electric discharge varied between 0.3 and 0.4 amps.
"Under the influence of repeated electric discharges during about 30 hours, relatively strong and increasing radioactivity b and l rays] showed itself. The b and l ray activity varied between 1.4 and 20 times the radioactivity of an equally large amount of uranium oxide in equilibrium with its decay products, and increased proportionally to the energy applied and to the time.
"One obtains an even greater proportion of uranium X if one makes the electric discharges pass within a thick-sided quartz or porcelain vessel between a tungsten point and mercury covered with a thin coat of vaseline and uranium oxide. This coating possesses such a high electric resistance that, even when applying the highest tensions which can be obtained, one is obliged to diminish greatly the sparking distance in order to obtain a discharge. This proceeding offers the advantage that the energy is concentrated into a very small space. Consequently one can show, after half an hour’s work, the production of relatively large quantities of uranium X.
"The production of uranium X considerably in excess of that produced by spontaneous decay is to be explained only by the fact that, under the influence of the electric force, an acceleration of the radioactive transmutation of uranium takes place."
Dr. Thomas H. Moray developed a method in the 1950s to enrich uranium by high-energy bombardment. He treated the ore (in a chemical solution) with x-rays (up to 24 MeV). The average ore contained 0.23% uranium oxide. After irradiation, the ore yielded from 7-75% uranium oxide! In 1953, Moray proposed that the Atomic Energy Commission investigate the "aging" of atomic ores by a "breeding type reaction with high-energy particles or x-rays in the presence of a proper environment". The AEC declined to grant a contract.
Perhaps fortunately, the technologies invented by Gaschler and Moray are dormant. Meanwhile, it is imperative that we develop every possible pathway to the deactivation of nuclear waste and weapons.
(1) Shoulders, Kenneth R.: US Patent 5,018,180; "Energy Conversion Using High Charge Manipulation of High Density Charge"; ibid., USP 5.054,047; "Circuits Responsive to & Controlling Charged Particles"; ibid., USP 5,123,039; "Energy Conversion Using High Charge Density"; ibid., USP 5,148,461; "Circuits Responsive to Charged Particles".
(2) Bhadkamkar, A. & Fox, H.: J. of New Energy 1(4): 62-68 (Winter 1996); "Electron Charge Cluster Sparking in Aqueous Solutions".
(3) Shoulders, K.: EV: A Tale of Discovery; 1987, Jupiter Technology, Austin TX.
(4) Nelson, Robert: Infinite Energy 18: 58-63 (1998); "Ken Shoulders' EVs".
(5) Batou Nuclear Institute Report #202 (24 August 1991): "The results of experiments to dispose of radiation materials by Brown's Gas".
(6) Haley, Dan: Planetary Association for Clean Energy Newsletter 6 (4): 8-9 (July 1993); "Transmutation of radioactive materials with Brown's Gas".
(7) Planetary Assoc. f. Clean Energy Newsletter 6 (4): 10-11 (July 1993); "Yull Brown's gas".
(8) Brown, Paul: Infinite Energy 4 (23): 44-46 (1999); "Transmutation of Nuclear Waste Using Giant Dipole Resonant Gamma Rays"; ibid,. I.E. 5 (27): 59-64 (1999).
(9) Hora, H., et al.: Infinite Energy 12: 48-52 (January-February 1997);"Energy gain and nuclear transmutation by low energy p- or d-reactions in metal lattices".
(10) Rauscher, E., et al.: Bulletin of the Amer. Physical Soc. 37 (1992).
(11) Michrowski, A.: J. of New Energy 1(3): 122-129 (Fall 1996)
(12) Gaschler, Alois: Nature 116 (#2915), 12 September 1925; "The Transmutation of Uranium into Uranium X"; US Patent # 1,644,370 ("Method of Artificially Producing Radioactive Substances); British Patent # 239,509 (Process & Aparatus for Transforming Atoms).