Kurion’s ISM available to assist Fukushima nuclear clean up

Source: Kurion, Inc.

Kurion, Inc., an innovator in nuclear waste management, announced that more than 100 tons of its unique patent-pending Ion Specific Media (ISM) is available to assist in the cleanup of contaminated liquid from the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. The ISM base material, now exclusively distributed by Kurion, was successfully used to cleanup liquids from the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear plant accident. Following the TMI cleanup the base material was volume reduced and permanently immobilized by converting it into a glass matrix using vitrification (the gold standard of waste stabilization). Kurion has dramatically enhanced the base material performance and state of the art for vitrification since TMI from a cost and throughput standpoint. 

For comprehensive coverage of the Japanese nuclear power disaster and efforts under way to resolve it, visit PennEnergy’s Japan Earthquake and Nuclear Emergency 2011 special section. 

Kurion developed its media to target and remove radioactive isotopes (atoms) from aqueous solutions that threaten both human health and the environment, including fission byproducts (e.g. plutonium, americium), indicators of failed fuel (e.g. cesium, strontium, and technetium), and effluent release drivers (e.g. nickel, iodine, cobalt, antimony). The inorganic Kurion media is radiation resistant mitigating the stability concerns associated with organic ion exchange resin under high radiation applications. Unlike conventional media the Kurion ISM has low sensitivity to pH, salt water, and the presence of surfactants (e.g., soap) in wash waters. Since it can be produced in large quantities the Kurion ISM can be used in water decontamination applications (nuclear plant or contaminated municipal water treatment facilities) and in trench, barrier or perimeter porous sock format. 

“The use of salt water for emergency cooling at Fukushima “blinds” conventional organic ion exchange resins used for decontamination”, said Kurion Chief Technology Officer Dr. Mark Denton. “Because Kurion’s inorganic Ion Specific Media works as a molecular sieve and adsorbent versus the ionic exchange process with resins, its extraordinary performance as an isotope sorbent in aqueous solutions is not negatively impacted by salt water and other common interferents. Our design goal was to create an engineered mineral that would be uniquely robust across a wide range of operating parameters and to be compatible with existing nuclear power plant water purification demineralization filtration systems as an ion exchange media replacement. Lastly, it had to be “vitrification-friendly” in the sense that it could withstand the melting process without degradation and associated isotope/off-gas releases; attributes not possible with ion exchange resins. 

"By being able to vitrify its ISM, Kurion offers the additional benefit of a volume-reduced stable waste form that minimized handling, storage, shipping, and disposal costs and uniquely isolated the isotopes from the environment”, said Dr. Denton. “As discussed in our December Radwaste Solutions article “Two Novel Approaches”, by delivering our ultra-high performance robust Ion Specific Media along with our complementary cost-effective Modular Vitrification System, Kurion is seeking to accelerate and lower the cost of isolating isotopes from the environment." 

The use of the Kurion base material (substrate) at Three Mile Island as an isotope separation technology and its subsequent vitrification was studied extensively following the cleanup. The success of the Kurion base material as an isotope separation technology was confirmed against competing media in terms of decontamination factors, isotope loading, radiation resistance, and its unique compatibility with vitrification. Furthermore, since then Kurion has dramatically enhanced the performance of the base material to equal or exceed that previously achieved by limited quantity and costly exotic isotope sorbents and ionic exchangers. In addition, the company announced its complementary patented and scalable Modular Vitrification System, which dramatically improves processing throughput to reduce cost and schedule. In the fall of 2010 the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) independently confirmed the efficacy of the Kurion ISM performance claims against competing isotope separation media using carefully controlled protocols at a nuclear power plant. 

Kurion CEO John Raymont said: “The events at Fukushima are serving to reinforce the urgency to isolate nuclear waste from the environment in a timely manner using new and transformative technologies such as Kurion is developing.”

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