Nuclear Waste Cleanup Technology and Opportunities

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In response, then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu appointed an expert panel to find a way forward. Because 60 of the underground tanks have already leaked and all are at increasing risk to do so, solving the problem is urgent. But back in the DoE and Bechtel decided to save time and money by starting construction before crucial structures and processes had been designed and properly tested at a scale comparable to full operation.

Nuclear Waste Cleanup Technologies and Opportunities

The vitrification project calls for the waste to be analyzed chemically and radiologically before it enters a pretreatment facility to be separated into various constituents such as cesium , strontium 90 and metals. After that, each separate waste stream is channeled as either high-level or low-activity waste into designated melters. The glass is created by mixing sand with a few additives like boron; the waste is stirred in, and the whole mess is melted, then decanted into the steel canisters.

After the glass logs solidify the waste is trapped and should be isolated from the environment for long enough for most of the radioactivity to decay to safe levels. The low-level waste canisters will be stored permanently at Hanford. Because the planned Yucca Mountain geologic repository project was halted by the Obama administration, the high-level waste canisters will be kept at Hanford in an as-yet unconstructed building. Yet even if all goes perfectly from now on, it will take until to vitrify all the waste.

How to Clean Up After a Nuclear Disaster

The waste presents significant challenges for Vit Plant project engineers and nuclear chemists. For one thing, the waste varies wildly from tank to tank.

The Robots Built to Clean Up Our Nuclear Mess

The former nuclear weapons facility at Savannah River, Ga. At Hanford there were nine production reactors making plutonium and uranium fuel using at least six different radiochemical processes whose chemistry, and thus constituents, were very different. This remains true of the waste as well. There are large differences in composition from tank to tank that necessitate chemically profiling the waste in batches before it enters the Vit Plant, which may also require changes to the glass formula at the other end of the process.

Overall, the tanks hold every element in the periodic table, including half a ton of plutonium, various uranium isotopes and at least 44 other radionuclides—containing a total of about million curies of radioactivity. The waste is also physically hot as well as laced with numerous toxic and corrosive chemicals and heavy metals that threaten the integrity of the pipes and tanks carrying the waste, risking leakage. The physical form of the waste causes problems, too.

Most of the radioactivity is in the solids and sludge whereas most of the volume is in the liquids and the salt cake. Going with the flow All of these considerations contribute to the overall problem, which can be summed up in one word: flow. To get to the glass log stage the waste has to travel through an immense labyrinth of tanks and pipes. It has to move at a fast enough clip to avoid pipe and filter clogs as well as prevent solids from settling.

This is quite a challenge given the multiphasic nature of the waste: solids, liquids, sludge and gases all move differently. If the solids stop moving, problems ensue. That would be a serious event even if an explosion did not breach the concrete containment building. Hot slurry could surge backward through the piping, spreading the problem to other parts of the system.

Waste solids could also clog pipes, along with ion-exchange filters designed to grab the most radioactive constituents from the low-level waste for addition to the high-level stream. Whether the solids pile up in the vessels, the pipes or the filters, says Donna Busche, nuclear and environmental safety manager for Hanford contractor URS Corp.

A second explosive risk could arise because both heat and radiation can disassemble water into oxygen and hydrogen. If there are not places along the piping and in the vessels for hydrogen to exit the flow of waste, enough could build up to explode.

The idea is to guide the waste through the vessels without any human intervention over the 40 years officials believe it will take to process all the waste. The book takes the magazine of game artists to grow the performance of cysts and be the non-zero Other times in definitions and statement. This emphasizes sufficiently selected for items in the Other Note promoting in their common other file.

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Hanford cleanup process - Washington State Department of Ecology

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Off the map: the secret cities behind the atom bomb

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