Interview with Russel Detwiler

On March 31st, 2011, Vaibhav interviewed Dr. Russell L. Detwiller, Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Engineering at the University of California at Irvine. Amongst his research, Dr. Detwiler is studying the remediation of groundwater contaminants and nuclear waste isolation.

Vaibhav: I saw from your website that you have worked on projects related to helping solve the problem of groundwater contamination. Could you give me an idea on what you're working on?

Russell Detwiler: First of all, groundwater contamination is mainly caused by contaminants and pollutants by industrialization. To help solve this problem, we are researching microorganisms that might be able to remediate the contaminated groundwater. Groundwater contamination can reduce our water supply significantly.

Vaibhav: Is the government doing anything?

Russell Detwiler: The government has spent a lot of money in the past few decades to help clean our water sources. When I was in college in 1990, wastes from industries notably polluted clean water. Through many government programs and lots of money, many of these water sources were sterilized. In this way, government has really been beneficial to the environment.

Vaibhav: Does this groundwater contamination affect animal and wildlife?

Russell Detwiler: Yes, it definitely affects wild animals. Without having clean water, disease will without a doubt spread between these animal species.

Vaibhav: Do you have any projects that relate to isolate nuclear waste?

Russell Detwiler: Recently, I researched ways to segregate nuclear waste. Having contact with this radiation can result in having a very high chance of having cancer. There are many ways you can isolate nuclear waste. One way is by building nuclear power plants underground, where there is a very low chance of making contact with anyone. However, there is a problem. By building power plants underground, we might further contaminate the groundwater. Our project tries to find ways to build these underground nuclear power plants without disturbing our underground water sources.

Vaibhav: What is the impact on the people of Japan from nuclear contamination of water? Will the nuclear radiation affect our water supply?

Russell Detwiler: The nuclear radiation situation in Japan is being very well handled by officials there, but we will not know the long-term crisis there for sure. I think this terrible situation will be taken care of. I do not think this nuclear radiation will notably affect our water supply. If it does contaminate our water, it will do so in a very miniscule manner.