Israeli company develops new radioactive waste conversion process

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Israeli firm Environmental Energy Resources (EER) has announced that it has developed a new technology, plasma gasification melting technology (PGM), to safely dispose of low- and medium-level nuclear waste. Extremely high temperatures are used to turn the waste into a mildly radioactive glass-like substance, which can be used as a building material. The process also releases an extremely hot mixture of gases that can be used to power steam turbines, generating electricity. The company claims that 70% of this electricity is used to drive the PGM process, while 30% is available as exportable energy.

Environmental impact

The solid waste produced by PGM is resistant to leeching, so there is little danger of radiation contaminating water supplies. However, it remains to be seen how openly companies will accept the use of mildly radioactive slag as a building material, even for use as a road bed filler.

The waste gases (hydrogen gas, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen gas, and various hydrocarbons) are produced by pyrolysis of organic substances in the input waste, and are therefore mainly harmless. If they were instead burned in the presence of oxygen, many of the usual pollutants would be produced, such as nitrogen dioxide and dioxin. Carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide are examples of pollutants that are generated by PGM, however, so the process cannot be called entirely clean.

Origins

PGM was developed by EER with the help of Russian scientists from Russia's Kurchatov Institute research center, the Radon Institute in Russia, and Israel's Technion Institute. The company, founded in 2000, won the bid to clean up after the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.

Sources

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