Innovative radioactive waste vitrification technology, developed in France, is being investigated for possible use at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi NPP in Japan, French nuclear fuel company Orano announced on 22 October.
Since 27 April, Orano has been working with Anadec (a joint venture between Orano and Japanese nuclear company Atox) and France’s Atomic & Alternative Energies Commission (CEA) on a project to evaluate the compatibility of the in-can vitrification process developed by the CEA, for treating radioactive waste from Fukushima Daiichi water treatment processes, such as sludge and mineral adsorbents.
The project is divided into two main parts. First, durable waste form conditioning matrix formulations and studies, laboratory scale (100 gr), bench scale (1kg) and near-industrial scale (100 kg) tests are led in France at the CEA Marcoule laboratories and technological platforms. The Marcoule laboratory developed the compact in-can vitrification process in which the melting pot is disposable and serves as the primary canister for the solidified glass. Then, feasibility studies for process implementation, operation and maintenance principles and waste disposal will be led by Orano teams. Laboratory tests and some bench-scale tests have already been performed successfully, and near-industrial scale tests are underway. Feasibility studies will follow to deliver final results before the end of March 2019. Anadec ensures technical and commercial interfaces in Japan.
Currently, various facilities are operating at Fukushima Daiichi to treat contaminated water. These include a multi-nuclide removal facility - the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS). After the concentration of caesium and strontium contained in the contaminated water is reduced, the ALPS system eventually removes most of the radioactive materials except tritium. The treatment of all highly contaminated water which contained strontium, except residual water in the bottom of the storage tanks, was completed in May 2015. However, this still requires additional treatment by ALPS. Dealing with the wastes from these processes remains a problem and is the focus of the Orano project.