The capital costs of developing a commercial installation to remove tritium from liquid radioactive waste (LRW) at Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi NPP can be reduced by 50%, according to Sergey Florya, head of the innovative development project office of Russian waste management company RosRAO. He told journalist during the International Forum ATOEXPO 2016 in Moscow on 30 May that RosRAO had in March delivered to Japan a science and technology report on experiments at a demonstration facility and a feasibility study on the large-scale installation for clean-up of the tritium-contaminated LRW.

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in August 2014 selected RosRAO jointly with the Khlopin Radium Institute as one of three overseas companies for the demonstration project. The other two companies were the USA’s Kurion and GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy Canada. The aim of the demonstration projects is to verify the tritium separation technology and assess the construction and operating costs for full-scale implementation of the technology at Fukushima Daiichi. The technology must be capable of removing tritium from water with concentrations of 0.6m and 4.2m bequerels per litre and to be expandable to process more than 400 cubic metres a day.

A fund to subsidise the projects is being managed by the Mitsubishi Research Institute on behalf of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, part of METI. The upper limit for subsidies will be JPY 1bn ($9.4m) per project. The projects will run until the end of March 2016. The current decontamination equipment at Fukushima Daiichi – EnergySolutions’ Advanced Liquid Processing System (Alps) – is able to remove some 62 nuclides from contaminated water, but not tritium.

RosRAO commissioned St Petersburg-based Atomproekt to develop the documents for the demonstration facility. Atomproekt – formerly VNIPIET (All-Russia Science Research and Design Institute of Power Engineering Technology), which in 2013 incorporated St Petersburg Atomenergoproekt (SPbAEP) – designs nuclear power projects, radiochemical plants and waste facilities. Atomproekt noted that, together with the Leningrad District branch of RosRAO, it had worked on the development of a facility for processing liquid waste contaminated with tritium in 2011. This technology, Triton, "can significantly reduce the volume of radioactive waste to prepare it for safe disposal", Atomproekt said. The demonstration installation, built at Sosnovy Bor near Leningrad, was inspected earlier this year by a delegation from Japan’s Mitsubishi Research Institute.

According to RosROA’s feasibility study, $300-400m will be required to build the commercial installation using Russian technology. "This is the maximum figure and in reality it will be smaller," Florya said. If the installation is built directly at the plant site, "50% and even 70% can be saved", including at the expense of duplicating technologies or the use of "any additional source", for example, steam, he explained. The commercial installation can operate for 15 years. "This apparently exceeds the required time, which means the installation can process not only accumulated waste but also newly generated LRW," he noted.