Radioactive nuclear waste trial

Plasma technology is to be trialled in practice for use at a British nuclear power station as a way to stabilise radioactive waste.

The safety of nuclear power is under the microscope following tragic events in Japan.

The trial, which is now underway, will see how simulated radioactive waste including containers, plant equipment and structural materials cope with radiation exposure and is due to be completed by the middle of this year.

Nuclear waste falls into three categories: high, intermediate and low, with each category managed in different ways – for the purpose of the trial the waste will be considered intermediate.

Waste firm Tetronics will carry out the trial at its base in Swindon, but plans for using it at Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria should it prove effective at converting waste into a stabilised and compacted form.

The purpose of the trial is to confirm the viability of plasma technology in the immobilisation of high metallic solid wastes.

Tetronics chief executive, Stephen Davies, said: “We are pleased to support the nuclear industry with this trial as we believe the Tetronics plasma process can offer multiple benefits over current cementation techniques.

“Our analysis comparing the lifetime cost savings of using plasma vitrification instead of cementation for unprocessed wet waste amounts to significant savings for the UK tax payer alone.”

Sellafield head of technology, Mike James, said: “Managing the UK’s nuclear liabilities is part-and-parcel of the decommissioning and cleaning up of civil nuclear facilities.

“Tetronics has continued to support the qualification of alternative techniques and we therefore see Tetronics’ thermal DC plasma technology as potentially capable of supporting the complexities of integrated decommissioning programmes.”

Luke Walsh

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