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Marta Reinoso (promotion date: 10 December 2004)

Chelating agents for actinide/lanthanide separation

Promotion Date: 10 December 2004

Marta Reinoso Garcia

What we basically wanted is to make an organic compound to treat nuclear waste, and convert it in a substance with a shorter term of radioactivity. For that purpose we tried to develop chelating agents that bind selectively to the actinide over lanthanide substances. In my case the chelating system was something like a hand, with folding fingers.

There is still a lot of ongoing research in nuclear waste. The problem is very complex and there still is not much known about actinides. We need something that is selective on the actinides. That is why the European Union puts a lot of money in this kind of research. But so far there is no solution in sight

What was your thesis about?

What we basically wanted is to make an organic compound to treat nuclear waste, and convert it in a substance with a shorter term of radioactivity. For that purpose we tried to develop chelating agents that bind selectively to the actinide over lanthanide substances. In my case the chelating system was something like a hand, with folding fingers. There is still a lot of ongoing research in nuclear waste. The problem is very complex and there still is not much known about actinides. We need something that is selective on the actinides. That is why the European Union puts a lot of money in this kind of research. But so far there is no solution in sight.

But you did achieve something I your research?

Yes, I made some compounds that were more effective in the removal of Americium (actinide) than of Europium (lanthanide). Mind you, my part was but small in a very big project. There were a lot of different groups in this European scheme and each group had a different goal.

But why conduct your research at Mesa?

My group belongs to Mesa and my project had to do a little bit with nanotechnology. We used silica particles on a nano scale for our chelating systems.

Do think that the problem of nuclear waste will ever be solved?

Yes, I think it will. So many people are working on it worldwide that it simply must eventually lead to results. On the other hand, it sometimes seems like a never ending story: every time you make a step forward new problems arise that need solving. But so much effort is put into either the re-use of nuclear waste or the decrease of its contamination, -which takes over 100.000 years when left alone-, that somewhere in the future we can probably do more. I am pretty confident about that. Storage in the deep of the ocean or any other inaccessible place is definitely not the solution, in this way we may create enormous environmental problems.

Did you experience set-backs in your research?

Yes, like nearly everybody in scientific research. After 1,5 years you are eager for results and all you are getting are even more questions to solve.

What did you like best?

I liked the subject very much. It gave me the opportunity to be a part of the solution on such an important topic. It has big relevance for humanity. Besides, it was a European project and I liked the close contact with others that were working in the same field. We regularly met to discuss our progress, every 3 or 6 months or so.

Since this is a European project, why come to the Netherlands?

I had my eye on a university in the Netherlands because I have definite links with the Netherlands. I was born here and lived here till the age of eight. Then my parents went back to Spain.

What are you going to do next?

I am doing a post doc in Zurich in the field of bio technology. Something completely new. And after that? I don’t know. I like research and I’d like to stay in Europe.

For the summary of the thesis, click here.