US-based nuclear waste cleanup firm Kurion announced on 1 March that it has completed construction and testing of a prototype system that removes tritium from contaminated water. Kurion says the Modular Detritiation System (MDS) is a cost-effective system to manage tritium and eliminate the release of tritiated water to the environment. While water treatment systems at nuclear sites remove many contaminating isotopes, tritium becomes part of the water molecule itself, forming tritiated water, which is difficult and expensive to treat.

Kurion says the MDS can process large volumes of light water across a range of concentrations to remove tritium contamination and allows for the recycling or clean release of reactor cooling water for light water reactors. Until now, removing tritium from water has focused on cleaning highly contaminated "heavy water" for recycling back into nuclear reactors. However, this technology is expensive for use with light water reactors. The Kurion MDS builds upon heavy water systems and makes advances in throughput and efficiency for light water detritiation. The new system will use a full-scale catalytic exchange column.

Kurion says it is currently in discussions with a number of customers in the US and abroad to introduce its mature MDS technology. Interest ranges across both operating and decommissioning plants. In February Paris-based water company Veolia bought Kurion for $350m. The new business will target the nuclear sector, in particular facilities and research centres in operation or being decommissioned, as well as to the oil industry and the pharmaceuticals industry.