A number of cold war legacy nuclear waste sites in the USA are being cleaned up with the help of robust filtration products from Porvair.
Unique technology developed by high performance filtration and separation specialist, Porvair is at the heart of essential work to clean up key legacy nuclear waste sites across the USA.
Porvair Filtration Group is deploying its advanced filtration technology across the affected sites to deal with hazardous high and low level contamination left over from national defence plutonium and uranium production efforts during World War II and the Cold War era.
The company’s know-how will be employed at the Hanford Tank Waste Treatment and Immobilisation Plant (WTP) at the Department of Energy (DOE) Hanford Site in Washington State; the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU) at the DOE Idaho site on waste-containers destined for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico; and at the DOE Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride (DUF6) conversion facilities in Paducah, Kentucky and Portsmouth, Ohio.
Porvair’s technology and capability in the USA is at the heart of each custom filter system used in these processes.
US-based Bechtel National contracted Porvair to develop novel HEPA filtration technology for use at the WTP, solving one of the key technical hurdles slowing completion of the plant. As the largest nuclear waste processing facility in the world, the WTP will process and stabilise 56 million gallons of radioactive and chemical waste.
Newly developed radial flow HEPA-grade air filters will be used throughout the plant for off-gas and plant-air treatment, serving as a final barrier between radioactive contamination and the public.
Porvair will also be part of the Idaho Cleanup Project (ICP), providing high-temperature process gas filters for the THOR steam reforming process used to treat waste at the IWTU, currently operated by Fluor Idaho.
Manufactured using various high-nickel alloys, the filter technology for the IWTU has been designed to withstand the harsh chemical and high temperature environments present during waste processing. The ICP focuses on reducing risk to the public and protecting the water supply in eastern Idaho from 900,000 gallons of liquid waste currently stored in tanks at the DOE Idaho Site.
At Paducah and Portsmouth, meanwhile, Porvair will be involved in converting DUF6 into depleted uranium oxide – a more stable chemical form that can be reused, stored or disposed of.
The filtration specialist will be deploying diffuser media and in-situ cleanable process filters manufactured from high-nickel alloys for use in the high-temperature and corrosive environments present within the conversion process vessels. The plants, currently operated by Mid-America Conversion Services, are planned to run for several decades in order to process the approximately 800,000 metric tons of DUF6 at the two sites.
Nitrate-salt waste processing
In addition to the filtration systems being deployed at the DOE sites across the nation, Porvair is supplying filters that will be deployed on nitrate-salt waste containers currently stored at Los Alamos National Lab (LANL). These filters will play a critical role in the processing of specific wastes at LANL by providing a controlled release of pressure with HEPA-level protection in the event of chemical reactions within the waste containers.
Trevor Waghorn, Porvair’s Vice President of Sales & Marketing, said: “The legacy of environmental waste left behind at these sites represents a huge challenge and a significant undertaking for all involved.
“Efforts to clean up the contamination have already taken decades and billions of dollars in expenditure. However, we believe that our technology and manufacturing capability in the US can help to meet the challenge head on, ensuring effective treatment and immobilisation.
“Across the nuclear industry, Porvair has a strong track record of supplying true HEPA grade gas filtration as well as fulfilling many critical needs in the nuclear industry, to meet the challenges of arduous conditions, including high temperature operation, chemically corrosive flows and high radioactivity situations, where conventional filters would not survive.
“Already in use in both fuel production and waste treatment facilities, our metal HEPA filters can be used in a wide range of varied applications. These include waste treatment and storage, post-Fukushima containment venting packages and ventilation systems.”