Guess Which Country Wants to Use Whiskey to Clean Up Nuclear Waste

By Noah Kaufman |

© Yagi Studio/ Getty Images

Whiskey: What can’t it do? Over the last year, the British government funded a project to make car fuel out of leftover distillery grains, and now they have found an even more dramatic use for the scraps: cleaning up nuclear waste.

At the bottom of Dounreay’s Shaft—a chute dropping more than 200 feet at the Dounreay nuclear facility near the northern tip of Scotland—lurks a radioactive isotope called Strontium-90 lurks in decades-old liquid waste. The site was decommissioned years ago and has remained dangerous for humans, but new technology using the region’s beloved brown liquor could help fix that. 

The Environmental Research Institute (ERI) in the nearby town of Thurso launched an investigation into using a technique called biosorption, which would, in effect, filter out the offending isotopes. In the past, biosorption has been used to remove tiny pieces of gold and silver from sewage and even mercury from different liquids. And while the project is in early stages, the team behind it is optimistic. Mike Gearhart, who leads the project, told the BBC, “we still have a number of issues to address, but results to date have been very encouraging.”

In addition to spent whiskey grain, the ERI is trying other post-edible items like coffee grounds and crab shells. Now we just have to wait for the inevitable PR play of opening a whiskey, crab and latte pop-up nearby. 

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