Sellafield nuclear site to trial DC plasma waste recovery

Tetronics has been commissioned by Sellafield to run a trial on a range of simulated intermediate-level metallic solid wastes that mimic the behaviour of material that has been irradiated or contaminated during its operational life on the Sellafield nuclear site.

The purpose of the trial is to confirm the viability of Tetronics’s DC plasma waste recovery in the immobilisation of high metallic solid wastes such as containers, plant equipment and structural materials.

The patented DC plasma arc plant technology uses high temperatures to melt, gasify or vaporise any waste material, in order to treat, recover or generate valuable commercial products. The technology has been tried and tested over five decades and has been used globally in more than 80 plants across a wide and varied range of applications.

Nuclear waste falls into three categories: high, intermediate and low. Each category contains varying quantities of radioactive materials and is consequently managed in different ways.

At Sellafield, intermediate-level waste — the class of waste to be simulated for treatment during the trial — is put into stainless steel drums, which are then filled with cementitious grouts before being placed into a special above-ground storage facility on the site.

Tetronics’ plasma waste treatment technology is anticipated to deliver a reduction of such radioactive waste, making it easier to manage during intermediate storage prior to geological disposal.

Stephen Davies, chief executive officer at Tetronics, said: ’We believe the Tetronics plasma process can offer multiple benefits over current cementation techniques. Our analysis comparing the lifetime cost savings of using plasma vitrification instead of cementation for unprocessed wet intermediate-level waste inventory amounts to significant savings for the UK tax payer alone.’