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Topic: Rate of Nuclear Decay  (Read 14330 times)

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BamaPete

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Rate of Nuclear Decay
« on: June 08, 2005, 04:01:57 PM »
I realize that nuclear decay is governed by first order chemical kinetics, and I'm sure that my PChem professor would shoot me for asking such a question but here goes.

Is there anyway to increase the rate of nuclear decay?  I'm fairly sure there isn't, so I guess the better reason is why not?
« Last Edit: June 08, 2005, 04:03:35 PM by BamaPete »

Offline Mitch

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Re:Rate of Nuclear Decay
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2005, 04:16:08 PM »
You can increase the rate of electron capture by chemical means. Since it involves grabbing one of the outer electrons and converting a proton into a neutron. There is also an other type of decay mode that can be increased by chemical means, but I can't remember it of the top of my head, I'll get back to you.
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Offline Donaldson Tan

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Re:Rate of Nuclear Decay
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2005, 07:34:35 PM »
mitch: doesnt nuclear decay refers to the nucleus specifically?
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Offline Elgon

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Re:Rate of Nuclear Decay
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2005, 10:54:35 PM »
mitch: doesnt nuclear decay refers to the nucleus specifically?

"Electron capture is a type of beta decay in which the atomic number is decreased by one unit, as in positron emission, but in this case by spontaneous incorporation into the nucleus of one of the atomic electrons (most often one from the K-shell of the atom)" (Friedlander - Nuclear and Radiochemistry).
The probability for this type of decay depends partially on the electron density around the nucleus, so theoretically one should be able to influence the life time by changing the electron density. There have been a few experiments in the past, but the effect is very, very small. It is still not completely clear whether the measurements were accurate enough to see a change in decay rate.
There have also been attempts to change the life time of gamma decays using lasers to stabilize or destabilize energy levels. But these experiments have been inconclusive as well.

BamaPete

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Re:Rate of Nuclear Decay
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2005, 12:10:50 PM »
I guess the point of my question is this:  If it is possible, wouldn't researching ways to increase the rate of radioactive decay be a better route to solving the nuclear waste problem, than researching ways to contain it?  I've been working on some stuff related to Yucca Mountain and it seems to me that burying this stuff is gonna be a huge pain.

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Re:Rate of Nuclear Decay
« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2005, 01:07:28 PM »
You could always increase the rate of decay by forcing the atoms to undergo nuclear fission.  Happens every single day in a nuclear reactor.  U-235 has a fairly long half-life, but constant bombardment by neutrons forces it to decay much, much, much quicker.  The whole problem with forcing the isotopes to decay via fission is the energy released when that happens, and the fact that not all isotopes are fissile.
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Offline Elgon

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Re:Rate of Nuclear Decay
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2005, 07:49:24 PM »
I guess the point of my question is this:  If it is possible, wouldn't researching ways to increase the rate of radioactive decay be a better route to solving the nuclear waste problem, than researching ways to contain it?  I've been working on some stuff related to Yucca Mountain and it seems to me that burying this stuff is gonna be a huge pain.

The change in half-life that people are trying to see in the current experiments is on the order of 0.5%.
There is no way to change the half-life in a way that you could solve the nuclear waste problem.

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Re:Rate of Nuclear Decay
« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2005, 07:57:45 PM »
You could always increase the rate of decay by forcing the atoms to undergo nuclear fission.  Happens every single day in a nuclear reactor.  U-235 has a fairly long half-life, but constant bombardment by neutrons forces it to decay much, much, much quicker.  The whole problem with forcing the isotopes to decay via fission is the energy released when that happens, and the fact that not all isotopes are fissile.

The process that you are describing is commenly called transmutation, and several groups around the world are working on viable concenpts to deal with radioactive waste this way. You are not changing the rate of radioactive decay, instead you bombard the waste with neutrons to convert it into isotopes that are either short-lived or are fissile. Afterwards you are still stuck with the fission products, but they decay much more rapidly than the original spent fuel.
Unfortunately you can not use the neutrons provided by a reactor to do this. The neutron flux and the neutron energy are too low. Instead they use an accelerator to fire a beam of protons onto a large lead or tungsten target. Inside the target the neutrons are produced through spallation. These neutrons have a much higher energy and you can reach higher fluxes. The energy released in the fission can be converted into energy and can help reduce the energy consumption of the accelerator.

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Re:Rate of Nuclear Decay
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2005, 10:54:47 PM »
The process that you are describing is commenly called transmutation, and several groups around the world are working on viable concenpts to deal with radioactive waste this way. You are not changing the rate of radioactive decay, instead you bombard the waste with neutrons to convert it into isotopes that are either short-lived or are fissile. Afterwards you are still stuck with the fission products, but they decay much more rapidly than the original spent fuel.
Unfortunately you can not use the neutrons provided by a reactor to do this. The neutron flux and the neutron energy are too low. Instead they use an accelerator to fire a beam of protons onto a large lead or tungsten target. Inside the target the neutrons are produced through spallation. These neutrons have a much higher energy and you can reach higher fluxes. The energy released in the fission can be converted into energy and can help reduce the energy consumption of the accelerator.

Well uhh.. yeah.. that's what I meant.  (Damn.  Can't argue with a LLNL person.  Damn you Mitch and your co-horts.  ;) ;D )
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Offline Mitch

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Re:Rate of Nuclear Decay
« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2005, 10:59:40 PM »
That would be LBL cohorts. http://www.lbl.gov ;)
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Offline Elgon

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Re:Rate of Nuclear Decay
« Reply #11 on: June 13, 2005, 04:27:05 PM »
Well uhh.. yeah.. that's what I meant.  (Damn.  Can't argue with a LLNL person.  Damn you Mitch and your co-horts.  ;) ;D )

You are more than welcome to argue with me and I would definitely argue about the "cohorts" part.  ;)
And the part about "LLNL" is seriously wrong.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2005, 04:28:42 PM by Elgon »

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Re:Rate of Nuclear Decay
« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2005, 07:04:58 AM »
then should it be LBNL?
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Offline Mitch

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Re:Rate of Nuclear Decay
« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2005, 01:37:07 PM »
lbnl or lbl is fine. The webaddress is www.lbl.gov
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Offline Elgon

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Re:Rate of Nuclear Decay
« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2005, 07:49:46 PM »
then should it be LBNL?

Guilty as charged.  8)

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