India Creates Medical Caesium-137 from Nuclear Waste
India’s scientists at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center in Trombay, near Mumbai in the western state of Maharashtra, recover caesium-137 from radioactive waste to protect babies and vulnerable patients from adverse reactions to blood transfusions.
A rare and usually fatal complication from blood transfusion is Transfusion-Associated Graft Versus Host Disease, which is a major risk for fetuses and very premature newborns, as well as patients with suppressed immune systems, says World Nuclear News.
Doctors normally irradiate donated blood either with x-rays or gamma rays sourced from cobalt-60. However, cobalt-60 has a short half-life of 5.3 years which means technicians have to regularly make, transport and install new sources. Though Caesium-137 offers a longer-lasting alternative with a half-life of 30.2 years, it is usually presented in powdered form as caesium-chloride that has the potential hazard of dispersal if not properly handled and managed.
Researchers at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center created a solid form of caesium-137 (from the stream of reprocessed spent fuel from India’s nuclear power plants), with the benefits of long life, reduced handling and no risk of dispersal. The same product will replace cobalt-60 for applications such as food irradiation, brachytherapy and sterilization of medical equipment.