Researchers often use non-radioactive “surrogates” in an attempt to understand the chemical behavior of radioactive elements, but no surrogate can truly replicate the unique nuclear and chemical properties inherent to a specific radioactive element. To really understand the chemistry of a radioactive element, scientists and engineers must work with the actual element. However, the specialized facilities required to safely conduct experiments with dispersible radioactive elements, particularly alpha emitting transuranium elements, are rare. The radiochemistry laboratories at The Colorado School of Mines make these rare facilities available to researchers in the Nuclear Science and Engineering Program.
The Mines Radiochemistry Laboratory is a fully equipped laboratory on the Mines campus dedicated to chemical experiments with radioactive materials from tritium, the lightest radioactive nuclide, to einsteinium, the heaviest element available in weighable quantities. In addition to a full suite of research-grade counting equipment, the facilities include equipment for thermodynamic and kinetic studies of chemical reactions and for characterization of chemical separations or geological transport. A set of optical spectrometers and fluorimeters is also maintained. The Nuclear Science and Engineering Program maintains additional radiochemistry laboratory space adjacent to the Geological Survey TRIGA Reactor at the Denver Federal Center through the Nuclear Science and Engineering Center, NuSEC.