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Egypt shows that sometimes recycling doesn't work

The example of Egyptian Pharaohs has been used to store important documents because of fears over the quality of recycled paper.

Because of the nature of electronic storage methods becoming obsolete, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) wanted to find a way of recording vital information for future generations about radioactive waste stored at Windscale in Cumbria.

They decided on paper and looked at the example of Egyptian scrolls that had withstood the test of time.

But recycled paper was not up to the job because of the high lignin acid content that causes deterioration and discolouration.

In the end, they opted for an acid free permanent paper for 423 documents that have been packed in copper impregnated bags, and stored in 16 special long-life archive boxes. Copies have also been placed in other locations.

UKAEA project leader David Gray said: "Our successors in the years and decades ahead must have access to detailed and reliable records of the stored radioactive waste as part of its long-term, safe management. For this reason, UKAEA carried out a thorough study of all options before deciding on the permanent paper solution."

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