National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) has announced a joint project with U.S. waste treatment company Kurion, to deploy a full-scale, active, In-Container Vitrification (ICV) plant based on Kurion’s GeoMelt® technology, at NNL’s flagship Central Laboratory on the Sellafield site.
NNL is the UK’s national laboratory for civil nuclear science and technology, providing advice to government, protecting key skills, supporting industry and delivering national nuclear programmes. NNL is bringing the Kurion GeoMelt process alongside its existing capabilities in thermal waste treatment, based in and around its Central Laboratory on the Sellafield site.
Kurion provides technology solutions to minimise and stabilise nuclear and hazardous waste through two families of technologies: separation and stabilisation systems. Kurion’s separation technology segregates radioactive elements and includes the company’s Ion Specific Media, which is currently deployed at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant for caesium removal, and its new Modular Detritiation System to separate tritium from contaminated water.
Kurion’s stabilisation technology converts waste into a leach-resistant glass through vitrification, which is widely recognised as the “gold standard” for nuclear waste disposal. The company’s GeoMelt vitrification technology is ideal for treating solid and bulk waste, while its Modular Vitrification System is designed for liquid waste.
“The GeoMelt plant at Sellafield creates a platform to evaluate the vitrification technology for the variety of wastes at the site and creates a treatment path for small, problematic waste streams that currently have no disposition pathway,” said Brett Campbell, vice president of GeoMelt Technologies for Kurion.
“Additionally, the plant creates an opportunity for Kurion’s engineers to collaborate with National Nuclear Laboratory experts on the treatment of nuclear and hazardous waste across Europe.”
NNL’s Director of Waste Management and Decommissioning, Nick Hanigan, added: “I’m delighted that NNL and Kurion are working together on this important project to help deal with nuclear wastes – both in the UK, on sites such as Sellafield, and elsewhere in the world. Together we hope to provide the nuclear industry with a ready-made platform which will demonstrate the treatment of a variety of waste streams and realise the benefits of thermal waste treatment as rapidly as possible.”
Based in Irvine, Calif., Kurion acquired the GeoMelt technology in 2012. GeoMelt has been in commercial use since the 1990s and has successfully treated over 26,000 tons of waste in the U.S., Japan and Australia.
Thermal treatment of nuclear waste in the UK has seen much renewed interest recently, owing to the advantages that can be gained in terms of reduced waste volumes, compatibility with reactive metals and organics, and its ability to treat mixed generic wastes while producing a durable, non-leachable waste form.