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As a first line of defense, steel barrels buried deep underground are designed to keep dangerous plutonium waste from seeping into the soil and surrounding bedrock and, eventually, contaminating the groundwater. But after several thousand years, those barrels will naturally begin to disintegrate because of corrosion. To determine what will happen to this toxic waste once its container disappears, a team of scientists at Argonne National Lab (ANL), used X-ray scattering techniques to study the way plutonium interacts with mineral surfaces on a molecular level. But the unexpected results of their tests challenge existing predictions about the way plutonium waste will behave.
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