One of the greatest challenges facing the nuclear power industry is the question of what to do with the dangerous radioactive waste it creates. California-based Kurion, Inc. proposes “vitirification”, or the process of turning waste into glass. Preferable to storing liquid material in tanks which can leak, the glass stabilizes the toxic byproducts and makes it easier and safer to store.
Kurion, Inc. is a start-up that was founded in October, 2008 with the mission to provide a more flexible, and low cost method of converting nuclear waste into glass. Using a two-phase process, the waste is filtered through “ion specific media” that segregates toxic material that can then be melted down. Through their GeoMelt and Modular Vitrification System applications, the filtered liquid is trapped in a glass matrix. The resulting glass is leach-resistant, and minimizes the risk of dangerous ions with long half lives making their way into the environment. The glass is then formed into steel canisters, and buried. Although more stable, the waste still takes millions of years to decay and occupies space.
Since 2011, Kurion’s vitirification techniques have been used to help clean up the waste water from Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant in Japan, removing up to 70% of the radiation within the first months of the disaster. To date, the company has treated over 26,000 tons of waste across the US, Australia, and Japan. Although the vitirfication process is not a new technology, Kurion has been able to provide some of the lowest-cost, and most efficient clean-up services within the industry.