Inauguration of GeoMelt system at Sellafield

25 July 2016

Cold and active commissioning has been completed of the full-scale demonstration GeoMelt In-Container Vitrification (ICV) plant at the UK's Sellafield site. The first commercial vitrification of radioactive waste was performed last week.

In January 2014, the UK's National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and US radioactive waste management specialist Kurion announced a joint project to construct a full-scale demonstration GeoMelt ICV plant at NNL's Central Laboratory on the Sellafield site in Cumbria. The initial non-radioactive phase of the system's commissioning program was completed in November 2015 at NNL's engineering facility in Workington. The system has since been dismantled, transported to Sellafield and reassembled.

NNL and Kurion announced today that the system successfully completed its cold and active commissioning on 10 June. "The extensive commissioning program included pre-energized system checks, safety evaluations and integration of the experience gained over the 26,000 tonnes of glass that GeoMelt has produced in the USA, UK, Japan and Australia since the 1990s", the partners said in a joint statement.

The first commercial melt was performed last week by demonstrating the ability to treat simulated corroded Magnox fuel sludge mixed with contaminated soil for the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

NNL customer and delivery director Nick Hanigan said, "Now open for business to demonstrate, test and process contaminated materials, the GeoMelt system forms an important role in fulfilling our core mission. That mission is to evaluate options to improve the lifecycle cost for managing and dispositioning waste streams, including problematic waste streams that currently lack a path to disposal."

NNL and Kurion plan to increase the total throughput of the system in 2016, reaching a maximum processing capacity of more than 200 tonnes per year. The companies will also evaluate the installation of additional systems.

The GeoMelt technology - initially developed by the USA's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory - was acquired by Kurion in 2012. It can be used to process non-radioactive hazardous wastes such as organic wastes and heavy metals.

The UK has over 300,000 tonnes of intermediate and low-level waste that could be suitable for treatment using GeoMelt, NNL and Kurion said. Unlike conventional vitrification technology, which requires a homogenous waste feed, GeoMelt can process various forms of waste simultaneously, and can use liabilities such as contaminated soils and inorganic ion exchange media as glass formers. It can also treat radioactive contaminated asbestos, a material found at many plants undergoing decommissioning.

Kurion was acquired by French waste specialist Veolia in February 2016.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News