New vitrification technology for Sellafield

3 August 2016

Cold and active commissioning has been completed of the full-scale demonstration GeoMelt In-Container Vitrification (ICV) plant at the UK's Sellafield site. In January 2014, the UK's National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and US radioactive waste management specialist Kurion announced a joint project to construct a full-scale demonstration GeoMelt ICV plant at NNL's Central Laboratory on the Sellafield site in Cumbria. The initial non-radioactive phase of the system's commissioning programme was completed in November 2015 at NNL's engineering facility in Workington. The system has since been dismantled, transported to Sellafield and reassembled.

NNL and Kurion announced on 25 July that the system successfully completed its cold and active commissioning on 10 June. The commissioning programme included pre-energised system checks, safety evaluations and integration of the experience gained over the 26,000t of glass that GeoMelt has produced in the USA, UK, Japan and Australia since the 1990s, the partners said in a joint statement.

The first commercial melt was performed in mid July by demonstrating the ability to treat simulated corroded Magnox fuel sludge mixed with contaminated soil for the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. NNL and Kurion plan to increase the total throughput of the system in 2016, reaching a maximum processing capacity of more than 200t a year. The companies will also evaluate the installation of additional systems.

Unlike conventional vitrification technology, which requires a homogenous waste feed, GeoMelt can process various forms of waste simultaneously, and can use liabilities such as contaminated soils and inorganic ion exchange media as glass formers. It can also treat radioactive contaminated asbestos, a material found at many plants undergoing decommissioning.

The GeoMelt technology - initially developed by the USA's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory - was acquired by Kurion in 2012. It can be used to process non-radioactive hazardous wastes such as organic wastes and heavy metals.

The UK has over 300,000t of intermediate and low-level waste that could be suitable for treatment using GeoMelt, NNL and Kurion said. Kurion was acquired by French waste specialist Veolia in February 2016.



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