332. LASER ALCHEMY
Here's an interesting technology I ran across while researching something else.
From the Oct. 6, 2003 CERN Courier:
Laser alchemy could burn nuclear waste
A new approach to disposing of radioactive waste without using intense sources of neutrons is based on nuclear alchemy by laser. Ken Ledingham and colleagues from Strathclyde University, Glasgow University, Imperial College, and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in the UK and the Institute for Transuranium Elements in Karlsruhe, Germany, have harnessed the ability of intense laser-plasma interactions to produce gamma rays that can be used for nuclear transmutation.
Working with the petawatt facility of the VULCAN glass laser at RAL, the team used a 0.7 ps pulse of 360 J to focus on a gold target with an intensity of about 5 x 10^20 W cm^-2. Electrons from the plasma formed in this way reached relativistic energies and emitted bremsstrahlung gamma rays as they stopped in the gold. The team used these gamma rays to irradiate a sample prepared with waste solution from a fuel processing plant. They found that the irradiation changed iodine-129 into iodine-128. While both these isotopes are radioactive, the change is important because it corresponds to swapping a half-life of 15.7 million years for one of 25 minutes.