Environmental Protection

Testing Opens Door for DeconGel Use at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

After testing performed by the Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL), the decontamination product, DeconGel®, has met requirements for safe transport to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, N,.M. for disposal of transuranic (TRU) waste.

DeconGel was used at SRNL in a headspace simulation test of disposal of a decontamination agent in a waste package after a predetermined drying and packaging time. Testing concluded that the total volatile organic compound (VOC) content in the containers after aging was below 70 parts per million by volume (ppmV). This result is well below the 500 ppmV limit established by WIPP’s CH-TRAMPAC, the document authorizing transportation of TRU material payloads in approved packaging.

“The fact that DeconGel can safely be disposed of at WIPP has major implications for DeconGel as we are better able to serve a larger clientele and fulfill their transuranic waste disposal needs,” said Larry Stack, president and chief operating officer of CBI Polymers.

SRNL began testing the product for use as a decontamination agent for the decommissioning of one of Savannah River Site’s plutonium processing facilities. Given the levels of plutonium in the subject facility, the waste generated from decontamination would be considered TRU waste. TRU waste can be defined as waste containing alpha-emitting transuranic isotopes with half lives greater than 20 years, and more than 100 nanocuries of TRU isotopes per gram of waste.

The sole disposal facility for TRU waste in the United States is the WIPP. WIPP TRU disposal is regulated by the state of New Mexico under the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act (HWA), which is pursuant to state authorization from the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Meeting the limits for WIPP is a key milestone for demonstrating DeconGel's usefulness in decommissioning a plutonium facility such as the one at the Savannah River Site. In order for waste to be transferred to WIPP, it cannot contain flammable mixtures of gases in confinement, or mixtures of gases that could become flammable when mixed with air. To ensure that this flammability restriction is met by those disposing of TRU at WIPP, WIPP requires headspace testing of each waste container for VOCs and flammable gases (e.g., hydrogen). While the predominant flammable gas of concern in TRU packages is hydrogen (due to radiolysis), the presence of methane and flammable VOCs is also limited to ensure the absence of flammable (gas/VOC) mixtures in TRU waste payloads. Testing showed that the VOCs in DeconGel® would not significantly contribute to the flammable VOC levels in the headspace above TRU waste payloads.

DeconGel, a decontamination solution for chemical and radioactive threats, is a safe, peel away hydrogel that requires minimal training to use and has a stable shelf life.

The product also can be used for hazardous materials or chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) first responder units concerned about immediate cleanup after a major incident from accidents or acts of terrorism such as a dirty bomb.

Development of DeconGel was funded by the Hawaii Technology Development Venture (HTDV) / Office of Naval Research (ONR). Additional R&D funding was secured through the USAF Force Protection Battlelab, the National Defense Center of Excellence for Research in Ocean Sciences (CEROS) under its contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the Department of Energy.

CBI Polymers is a wholly owned subsidiary of Cellular Bioengineering, Inc., with a focus on developing easy-to-use and "green" peelable polymers for use in radiological, nuclear, chemical, and biological decontamination. CBI Polymers specializes in technology to clean nuclear power plants, research labs, decontamination and decommissioning sites, hazardous chemical spills, mold, and more.

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