Russia develops facility to decontaminate irradiated concrete

26 January 2024

Scientists at the Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU) have created a laboratory facility for decontamination of radioactively contaminated concrete commissioned by the Rosatom Fuel Company TVEL. To reduce the amount of radioactive waste requiring handling, conditioning and further final isolation during decommissioning of nuclear facilities, it is necessary to provide for the decontamination of concrete from radioactive contamination. Using the new method, concrete is cleaned by pulsed electrical discharges that break the surface layer of concrete to the desired depth.

The technology has several advantages over mechanical methods – this is the absence of radioactive dust and the ecological purity of the process, the absence of wear on cutting and other abrasive tools, and a relatively low energy consumption. In addition, when destroying reinforced concrete products, the reinforcing frame is not deformed and can be reused.

“The use of the technology of electro-discharge decontamination of concrete is promising, including when decommissioning NPPs,” said Eduard Nikitin Director for Decommissioning at TVEL. “The results of the work will be used by organisations and industry enterprises at the stage of decommissioning of nuclear and radiation hazardous facilities in Russia and abroad.”

Artem Yudin, project manager and researcher at the TPU laboratory of pulsed beam and plasma technologies said that the experiments demonstrated the operability of the laboratory unit and the ability to remove the layer of contaminated concrete to a given depth. “The main advantage of electro-discharge technology over mechanical is low wear of the working tool – electrodes wear out much more slowly than cutting edges of a mechanical tool. In addition, it is possible to achieve a high removal rate of the material layer. The electrical impulse is literally microseconds. We are continuing a series of experiments with simulators of radioactive substances in order to prove the applicability of the method on an industrial scale.”

Image courtesy of TVEL

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