California-based hazardous material specialist Kurion Inc. said Tuesday that it would use a grant of one billion yen from the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to build and evaluate a prototype modular detritiation system that would be 10 times larger than the company's current system.
The one billion yen grant amounts to $8.33 million. At issue, Kurion explained, is the removal of the isotope tritium from contaminated water, especially as it applies to clean up at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, where groundwater continues to enter highly radioactive areas of buildings that were destroyed during meltdowns and explosions in 2011, the result of the March tsunami event that knocked out the plant's backup power.
Kurion said it received 182 responses for information based on a unique patent-pending approach that refines proven solutions to economically process and remove tritium from contaminated water.
To date, the results of extensive testing of Kurion’s existing Modular Detritiation System match the company’s predictions for its performance and operating costs. Additionally, through these tests Kurion discovered techniques to further improve the economics of the system, demonstrating that the technology will offer a new tool for plant operators to manage tritium at nuclear sites worldwide. The new system will confirm these inputs by utilizing one full-scale catalytic exchange column, the heart of Kurion’s technology, the company said.
Today water treatment systems at nuclear sites remove many contaminating isotopes, leaving tritium. The removal of tritium is particularly problematic: it is a special form of hydrogen that becomes part of the water molecule itself, forming tritiated water (HTO vs. H2O). As a result, tritiated water has traditionally been particularly difficult and expensive to treat and can spread easily if it escapes into the environment. Kurion’s tritium-removal technology offers operators of sites a new tool for managing tritium, including the ability to reduce or recycle their water to eliminate the need to release tritiated water into the environment.
Kurion is following the technology readiness assessment (TRA) process to mature its Modular Detritiation System. Created by NASA to support the U.S. space program, the TRA is a procurement tool that has been widely adopted by the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Defense, and UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to determine whether new technologies are sufficiently mature for procurement and deployment. Under the TRA, the new system will allow operators of nuclear sites to reliably determine whether to proceed to full scale from a technology, economics and scheduling standpoint. Kurion engaged leading TRA experts from national laboratories around the world to objectively validate the technology readiness level of its Modular Detritiation System.
Kurion creates technology solutions to access, separate and stabilize nuclear and hazardous materials and to isolate them safely from the environment for a cleaner future. Kurion’s suite of technologies and engineering capabilities offer a platform to address the needs of the most-challenging nuclear and hazardous sites worldwide. Founded in 2008, Kurion operates eight facilities across California, Washington, Colorado, Idaho, and Texas and has subsidiaries in Warrington, UK, and Tokyo, Japan.
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