Part of a £13 million package of funding announced on Thursday, 30 October, by Business Secretary Vince Cable, to develop safe and smart nuclear technologies, the Hazmelt project has received a £1 million grant from Innovate UK, the national innovation agency and the new name for the Technology Strategy Board.
Aiming to formulate novel glasses together with a new melting technology, capable of vitrifying a wide range of intermediate level radioactive waste (ILW) streams, the Hazmelt project will offer great improvements for dealing with these wastes: enhanced wasteform passivity, improved durability and maximal reductions in waste volumes.
Intermediate level wastes include a range of ion exchange resins, chemical sludges, nuclear fuel cladding and contaminated materials arising from the nuclear fuel cycle and decommissioning of plant. Much of this waste is currently encapsulated into concrete before being packaged into steel drums for long-term storage.
The Hazmelt project aims to revolutionise the waste treatment process, significantly reducing the volume of processed waste and potentially creating a product which is both stable and durable, due to the unique chemical structure and properties of the glass materials under development.
During the three-year project, due to commence in April 2015, GTS will exploit the innovative Apollo furnace technology, developed between GTS and Apollo Furnaces, and combine its glass expertise with that of project partners the University of Sheffield, National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and Sellafield Ltd in order to develop a novel thermal treatment process with distinct advantages over existing technologies for ILW.
“The new treatment technology will be demonstrated through a series of 500 kg trials, using simulated radioactive waste,” said Robert Ireson, Innovation team Leader at GTS.
“Hazmelt combines customised glass frits and oxide batch mixes with the ILW in a refractory lined melter, which uses a novel electrode design to melt, mix and vitrify the streams - creating homogenised, highly durable end products with enhanced wasteform passivity and maximum volume reduction. It has a number of advantages over existing thermal treatment technologies for ILW and will enable us to process a wide range of compositions.”
Hazmelt received the highest single grant in the £13 million of funding announced by Vince Cable to companies and consortia across the UK, to help develop innovative technologies for the current and next generation of nuclear power stations.
The decommissioning market is set to expand, with up to 145 mostly European reactors expected to reach the end of their lives in the next 15 years and an estimated global market worth £50 billion annually. For UK businesses in the area of nuclear engineering and associated technologies, innovation could deliver direct benefits to the UK worth up to £14 billion by 2050.
The GTS portfolio of non-confidential projects is available online at www.glass-ts.com/projects.
GTS provides analysis, consultancy, testing and research and development support to all parts of the glass supply chain – from raw materials to the end consumer. GTS prides itself on its confidentiality and independence and is accredited to ISO 9001, 14001 and 17025 standards.