Intelligent Energy

Turning nuclear waste into glass

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Start-up Kurion looks to make glass from radioactive waste. Could this helps solve the nuclear industry's mounting disposal problem?

Even as more Americans are accepting nuclear power as one solution to our pesky greenhouse gas problem, there is still the big stinking mess of radioactive waste disposal that must be tackled (see: Nuclear waste? Not in Yucca's backyard).

Okay, the 70,000 metric tons or so of radioactive waste we have stored in temporary facilities across the country probably doesn't stink, but I hope to never have my nose so close to find out. I do know, however, that glass doesn't stink. Or leak.

And glass is what start-up Kurion (Curie + ion) wants to turn liquid nuclear waste into through a process called vitrification (shown above). Vitrification can also produce ceramics.

Kurion's website is sparse, without much detail to how their clean energy solutions are "modular, quickly deployable, work with existing systems, and substantially reduce our customers' total lifecycle costs."

But the site does list the company's management heads comprised of nuclear and glass industry experts and its advisory board, which includes Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace and now co-chair of the nuclear lobbying group CASEnergy Coalition.

Michael Kanellos of Greentech Media reports:

England has used vitrification to store some of its nuclear waste while countries like Japan that reprocess most of their nuclear waste into fuel employ vitrification for nuclear materials that aren't reconverted into fuel...

The U.S. has experimented with vitrification for years and planned to use some form of vitrification at Yucca Mountain. It has even looked at the "synthetic rock" process developed in Australia.

But as we know, Yucca Mountain as a storage facility is a no-go. Whether vitrification will go ahead to reprocess America's past and future nuclear waste remains to be seen.

Via: Greentech Media

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Melissa Mahony

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Melissa Mahony has written for Scientific American Mind, Audubon Magazine, Plenty Magazine and LiveScience. Formerly, she was an editor at Wildlife Conservation magazine. She holds degrees from Boston College and New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure