Kurion Offers Ion Specific Media for Fukushima Plant Cleanup

The product, based on materials used to clean up Three Mile Island's nuclear disaster, reportedly removes radioactive isotopes from aqueous solutions.

Kurion, Inc., an innovator in nuclear waste management, has more than 100 tons of its unique patent-pending Ion Specific Media (ISM) available to assist in the cleanup of contaminated liquid from the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, the company said in a recent press release.

The ISM base material was used to clean up liquids from the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear plant accident. Following the TMI cleanup, the base material was "volume reduced" and permanently immobilized by converting it into a glass matrix using vitrification. The Irvine, Calif.-based company says it has dramatically enhanced the base material performance and state of the art for vitrification since TMI from a cost and throughput standpoint.

The company developed its media to target and remove radioactive isotopes (atoms) from aqueous solutions, including fission byproducts (e.g. plutonium, americium), indicators of failed fuel (e.g. cesium, strontium, and technetium), and effluent release drivers (e.g. nickel, iodine, cobalt, antimony). The inorganic media is radiation-resistant, mitigating the stability concerns associated with organic ion exchange resin under high radiation applications. ISM has low sensitivity to pH, salt water, and the presence of surfactants (e.g., soap) in wash waters.

“The use of salt water for emergency cooling at Fukushima “blinds” conventional organic ion exchange resins used for decontamination”, said Kurion Chief Technology Officer Mark Denton, Ph.D. “Because Kurion’s inorganic Ion Specific Media works as a molecular sieve and adsorbent versus the ionic exchange process with resins, its extraordinary performance as an isotope sorbent in aqueous solutions is not negatively impacted by salt water and other common interferents. Our design goal was to create an engineered mineral that would be uniquely robust across a wide range of operating parameters and to be compatible with existing nuclear power plant water purification demineralization filtration systems as an ion exchange media replacement. Lastly, it had to be 'vitrification-friendly' in the sense that it could withstand the melting process without degradation and associated isotope/off-gas releases; attributes not possible with ion exchange resins.

The use of the base material (substrate) at Three Mile Island as an isotope separation technology and its subsequent vitrification was studies following the cleanup. The success of the base material as an isotope separation technology was confirmed against competing media in terms of decontamination factors, isotope loading, radiation resistance, and its unique compatibility with vitrification.

In the fall of 2010 the Electric Power Research Institute independently confirmed the efficacy of the Kurion ISM performance claims against competing isotope separation media using carefully controlled protocols at a nuclear power plant.

Founded in 2008, Kurion is backed by leading energy investors Lux Capital Management and Firelake Capital Management. The company operates a research and development facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and a test facility in Rolla, Mo.

Source: Kurion