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Radioactive Graphite Waste Management

Plan for VHTR


<Overall>
- Large volumes of radioactive graphite
waste involved:
about 60,000 tons in the UK, 50,000
tons in the former Soviet Union,
similar amounts in France and in the
USA
Totally 230,000 tons assumed
- The significant quantities of the
long lived isotope Carbon-14, as well
as significant amounts of Tritium and
other radionuclides contained within
the graphite waste
- Graphite is an inert stable material that
maintains its good mechanical properties in
adverse conditions over many years.
Therefore, the safe storage concept can
be used
need not involve a high level of
technological skill
However, the location and construction of
near surface or deep geological waste
repositories requires political support
<Treatment/Disposal Method>
- Conventional Burial Option
- Preparative Treatment
- Incineration
- Chemical Decontamination
- Mobilization of Isotope by Heating & Grinding
- Pyrolysis and Steam Reformation
- Vitrification
- Recycling and Reuse
- Carbon14 Isotope Separation Technique
<Incineration>
- The incineration of graphite has a number of
advantages
it disposes of the stored Wigner energy
problem completely,
it greatly reduces the volume of waste i.e.
1,400 m
3
of graphite could be reduced to
as little as 35 m
3
of cemented ash product
and filters.
Graphite react with oxygen in the air
<Incineration Methods>
1. Conventional Burning
controlled combustion of the graphite.
The graphite is first of all crushed into pieces of typical
dimension 2.5 cm.
then placed in a furnace where it is subjected to a blast of
air at about 1000. Cooler air blasts would be needed to
keep down the temperatures of the furnace walls and the
graphite bed.
Assuming that about 10 tons of graphite could be
incinerated per day.
-disadvantages
the milling effort required
the production of active dust
the difficulties of the incinerator
design.
2. Fluidized Bed Incineration
burning the graphite in a fluidized bed.
ground to a powder (possibly down to 30m)
to provide enough surface area for reaction
with oxygen at incineration temperatures.
produce dust that would have to be contained.
could lead to ignition if significant stored
Wigner energy and air were present. These
factors alone preclude this option.
the milling prior to burning produces waste
itself,
irradiated graphite can be very hard making
milling more difficult
other materials can become mixed with the
ash from the carbon thereby increasing the
ash volume, as can any inefficiency during
burning.
3. Power Laser Driven Incineration
An alternative method of incineration.
no prior milling or crushing of the graphite is required
before incineration. Thus the bricks can be loaded
straight from the reactor core and the furnace design is
very simple compared with earlier options.
At the heart of the system is a 30 kW CO
2
laser. The
laser beam heats the graphite surface to about 1500
and rapid combustion takes place when O
2
is supplied.
The laser itself can be outside the furnace area so does
not require handling within an active area.
Control is completely governed by the presence of the
laser beam, as high temperatures are limited to one side of
a single block.
energy in the block is only a few percent of the total
energy release and so does not constitute a problem.
The suggested combustion rates are about 150 kg/h which
with a 50% load factor would consume 700 tons of
graphite per year.
The main disadvantage of this process is that it is not
proven technology on this scale and so would require a
significant research and development program to support
this work.
<Costs>
- It is difficult to cost this system since there is little
experience with radioactive plant of the required
duty.
- a combustion/ash immobilization unit could be
constructed and approved for use at a cost less than
30 M
- Estimated costs range from a maximum of
15,000/ton of graphite for numerous smaller
facilities down to perhaps 500/ton plus transport
for a national facility
-Cost Comparison-
Assessment of management modes for graphite from
reactor decommissioning(1984)
1 =1,800
30 M=540

15,000/ton=27,000,000/ton
500/ton=900,000/ton

2013-63(2013.06.27):
1,193,000,000/200L
=59,650,000/ton
<Off-Gas Treatment>
- Major political / environmental concerns about release of
14
C
despite favorable comparisons with the natural production rate.
- Similar concerns about CO
2
release and greenhouse effect.
- Technology to trap
14
C capable of development but probably
expensive.
- Effective half-life of
14
C in the environment may be much
shorter than the actual half life.
IAEA Specialists Meeting in 1995, W. Morgan (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory,
USA, personal communication) considered that the effective half-life of incineration
14
C
emissions was around 35 years if the dissolution into oceans followed by the formation of
carbonate sediments was considered as a removal process from the habitable environment.
Conceptual Design of isotope Separation of
14
C after Incineration
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