The Cold War is over. The wasteful spending is not.

Nuclear waste disposal is a global problem. Companies retain their radioactive properties for thousands of years.

Radioactive waste results from daily maintenance or repair activities or scheduled or unscheduled nuclear power plant shutdowns and must be stored separately from regular waste.

Purification filters or those from ventilation systems, oils, solvents, or flammable mixtures are some types of radioactive waste. Their collection and sorting are done according to rules and fixed criteria. Gerard Mourou, one of the three Nobel laureates in physics in 2021, says that the life of radioactive waste could be reduced from thousands of years to a few minutes. Although Mourou does not hesitate to say that the option he and Professor Toshiki Tajima, from California, worked on may be applicable in a few years, it has created a wave of enthusiasm in France, writes Bloomberg.

Nuclear power has its advantages: it generates fewer emissions and is produced at a relatively low price. But no country can claim to have an effective solution for treating nuclear waste. According to data provided by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Greenpeace environmental group estimates a global stockpile of about 250,000 tons of spent fuel, distributed in 14 countries, according to data provided by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In a report published in 2015 by GE-Hitachi, the cost of disposing of nuclear waste - from China, Russia, and India - is estimated at over $ 100 billion. France produces more nuclear waste per capita than any other country. With almost 72% of its electricity coming from nuclear energy - the largest share in the world - it generates 2 kg of radioactive waste per person per year.

The most toxic waste is stored in short-term facilities in The Hague in Normandy, Marcoule, and Cadarache in southern France and Valduc, near Dijon. Mourou's solution involves high-intensity lasers. His research paved the way for the shortest and most intense laser pulses ever created. In his Nobel speech, Mourou emphasized that he would use his "passion for extreme light" to solve the problem of nuclear waste.

"Nuclear power is probably the best candidate for the future, but we still have a lot of hazardous waste," he said. "The idea is to transmute nuclear waste into new forms of atoms that do not have the problem of radioactivity. All you have to do is change the elemental composition."

The process that Mourou and Tajima are working on is called transmutation. It involves changing the composition of the nucleus of an atom by laser bombardment. Transmutation research has been going on for three decades in the UK, Germany, Belgium, the USA, and Japan. Some experiments have failed, others are in different stages of study.

"Research is still in the laboratory stage, and the prospect of transmutation being used industrially is complex and costly," said Emmanuel Touron, head of research on future fuel removal at CEA.

Cedric Villani, MP, and winner of the Fields Medal, the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in Mathematics, says this is not a reason to give up. "What Mourou is looking for is the acceleration process created by the laser," he said. "It's far away, but why not?"

Mourou and Tajima want to create a laser-powered high-speed accelerator to produce a proton beam capable of penetrating atoms. The idea is to reduce the shaft's distance to cover 10,000 times, thus avoiding the current accelerators' impasse.