Molecule may help nuclear clean-ups

SCIENTISTS have produced a previously unseen compound in a development that could help improve nuclear waste clean-ups.

The distinctive butterfly-shaped uranium molecule compound is similar to radioactive molecules that scientists had proposed to be key components of nuclear waste, but were thought too unstable to exist for long.

Professor Polly Arnold of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Chemistry, said: “We have made a molecule that, in theory, should not exist, because its structure suggests it would quickly react with other chemicals.

“The discovery that this particular form of uranium is so stable could help optimise processes to recycle valuable radioactive materials and help manage the UK’s nuclear legacy.”

It is thought targeting this type of molecule could help the nuclear industry move towards cleaner power generation.