China opens plant that turns nuclear waste into glass

China opens a plant that turns nuclear waste into glass - Photo 1.

Nuclear waste into glass recycling plant in Guangyuan, Sichuan province, China. With a rate of building 7-8 nuclear power plants per year, China is forecast to generate huge amounts of nuclear waste in the coming years – Photo: WEIBO

According to the newspaper South China Morning Post (SCMP) On September 12, the aforementioned nuclear waste “vitrification” plant was located in Guangyuan, Sichuan province.

According to Chinese state media, the facility can process several hundred cubic meters of highly radioactive liquid nuclear waste each year.

Most nuclear power plants in the US and Europe treat liquid nuclear waste by heating the liquid in an electric furnace to temperatures above 1,100 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, vitrification will take place. and finished after coating a ceramic layer on the glass surface to limit leakage.

This is the technology being used at the factory that has just come into operation in Quang Nguyen. Follow SCMPThis vitrification method has been shown to be safer than crushing radioactive waste and mixing it with water and temporarily storing it in metal tanks.

The idea of ​​vitrification has been around for a long time, but putting it into practice has not been easy. About half of the 10 vitrification plants that opened in the past four decades had to close due to technical or financial difficulties, according to the report. SCMP.

At first, engineers just mixed radioactive liquid waste and glass-making materials like silica in a melting pot. However, this method is less safe and has the potential to leak into the environment.

The construction of the factory in Quang Nguyen was approved by the central government in 2009.

Current technology is not without problems. Some researchers involved in the project say they are looking for ways to make the process safer and cheaper. For example, one problem from this technology is that electric furnaces need to be replaced every 5 years due to corrosion.

Chinese scientists hope to find a way to keep electric furnaces running longer by using water to cool the inner walls of the furnace.

A test facility on the outskirts of Beijing has been running for two days using the method since earlier this year. China is expected to start building a nuclear waste treatment plant using the new method by 2024.


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