Russian scientists at the Ural Federal University (UFU) have created samples of clay bricks that are able to attenuate ionising radiation as much as possible - to a level that is safe for the human body, UFU said on 18 May. An article describing the technology was published in the journal Applied Radiation and Isotopes.
“The bricks are alloyed with heavy metals - wastes from the metallurgical enterprises of the Urals. These substances have pronounced radiation-protective properties. Thus, we solve two problems at once. First, by adding crushed absorbers of ionising radiation to the matrix, in this case from clay, we obtain building materials with the desired protective properties. Second, we find a way to utilise industrial waste,” explained Oleg Tashlykov, scientific leader of the project, associate professor of the UFU Department of Nuclear Power Plants and Renewable Energy Sources.
The ultimate goal of scientists is to develop a wide range of materials based not only on clay, but also cement mortars or concrete, artificial polymers with different chemical composition and concentration of absorbing substances. In other words, with specified protective properties that meet specific conditions (isotopic composition of radioactive contamination, types of radiation, etc.) at nuclear power plants, in radioactive waste storage facilities, as well as in medical institutions where diagnostics and treatment are carried out using x-ray equipment and irradiating devices.
“It is known that tungsten is the most reliable protection against gamma or X-ray radiation, but it is very expensive. Lead is cheaper but toxic. And, besides, it is also plastic and in an upright position can slide under its own weight, forming holes in the radiation protection system and reducing its stability. Our materials are optimal in terms of radiation protection efficiency and ease of manufacture, strength, durability, cost. The latter factor is important, since today the contribution of biological protection to the cost of nuclear power facilities reaches 20-30%,” Tashlykov noted.
The uniqueness of the properties of the samples is ensured by the fact that UFU scientists use high-precision computational codes, conduct their experimental research at the reactor plant of Rosatom’s Institute of Reactor Materials (Zarechny, Sverdlovsk Region) and employ the production technologies of the Sealing Materials Plant (Dzerzhinsk, Nizhegorodsk region).
Joint venture products are of great interest to domestic and foreign nuclear industry enterprises. There are plans to further study the mechanical and radiation-protective parameters of various natural substances, including those common in the countries where Rosatom is building NPPs (Turkey, Egypt, Bangladesh). A significant contribution to the research was made by Mahmud Karem, an Egyptian postgraduate student at UFU’s Department of Nuclear Power Plants and Renewable Energy Sources. The research team received support from donor organisations.