Mopping up radioactive waste is messy work. Ever since an earthquake and a tsunami crippled Japanese nuclear power plants in March, cleanup crews have been struggling to decontaminate the area. Typically, this kind of work is performed with low-tech tools: soap, water, pads, brushes and old-fashioned elbow grease.
A company based in Hawaii says it has come up with a safer, more effective way to clean up nuclear waste — a superabsorbent substance it calls blue goo. It is able to bind and encapsulate contaminants by forming a chemical and physical complex with nano and molecular scale hazardous materials
DeconGel can’t neutralize radioactivity — that’s the holy grail of cleanup — but it can minimize disposal costs, which typically depend on the weight and noxiousness of the waste. Radioactive cleanup is traditionally performed with water, but contaminated water is heavy and hard to contain.
The discovery of DeconGel was accidental. Wuh is the CEO of a Skai Ventures, a Honolulu-based venture capital firm and technology accelerator. Late one night in 2006, the firm’s researchers got a little sloppy with an experiment. They were working with a gel that dripped from the lab table onto the floor. When they peeled it off the next morning, the floor beneath was “absolutely pristine, completely clean and white,” recalls Wuh. They tried to scrub the surrounding area to get it to match, but couldn’t.
CBI Polymers says its DeconGel blue goo may not look high-tech, since all you do is pour it on, but its molecules act as a sponge when it gels, binding and encapsulating radioactive molecules.
DeconGel starts off as a liquid that can be brushed or sprayed onto contaminated surfaces. It dries to form a gel that encapsulates microscopic bits of radioactive or otherwise hazardous waste, including PCBs, beryllium, mercury and chromium. The gel can then be peeled off, rolled up and thrown away.
“It’s the same concept as Silly Putty. It gets into every pore, nook, and cranny,” said Hector Ramirez of the U.S. Department of Energy, who used it to clean up nuclear waste left over from weapons research at the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Oregon.
CBI says it donated 500 gallons to the nuclear cleanup in Japan, where it decontaminated 25,000 square feet of walls, sidewalks, and school playgrounds following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March.
One gallon of DeconGel nuclear decontaminant sells for $160 and covers between 50 to 100 square feet. For about a year, starting in 2009, the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Albany, Ore., used DeconGel in a remediation project, cleaning lab benches, floors, tables, walls and equipment contaminated with beryllium from research work.
Roberto Mandanas, Vice President
Work: 808-949-2208 ext. 128
Email: [email protected]
Nuclear Power Plants: Perry, Leading Canadian Nuclear Power Plants, Peach Bottom
Service/Product Providers: Alaron, RADeco, UniTech
- Decontamination of waxed concrete and painted diamond plate, with DFs of 100 percent in a single pass on surfaces with 100-200k dpm/100 cm2 Co-60.
- Excellent DFs on the lifting strongbacks that are used to remove reactor internals for refueling.
- Removal of Alpha beta emitting particles.
- Final clean-up of asbestos.
- Heat exchanger leak contamination clean-up.
- Approved for Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) Transuranic Waste Disposal facility located in the Chihuahuan Desert, outside of Carlsbad, New Mexico.
- Approved for disposal at low level radioactive waste site – Clive Site in Utah
- Approved for incineration at US commercial low level waste facility – Energy Solution’s incineration facility in Bear Creek, TN.
- Approved for use at various US commercial sites.
- GE Nuclear – accepted for use. Completion of the necessary chemical composition testing for DeconGel to be approved for use on GE Nuclear systems and their facilities and DeconGel® is being included in the GE Redbook (GE manual for processes and procedures).
Leading Canadian Nuclear Power Plant
Heat exchanger leak contamination clean-up
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