Novel restoration materials for clean-up of radionuclides in the environment

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: School of Chemistry

Abstract

Despite tremendous technological and financial effort in Japan to deal with the effects of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) accident many challenges remain. The Government of Japan's Committee on Countermeasures for Contaminated Water Treatment considered existing and proposed measures and technologies "to remove" contaminated water, "to keep out" the inflow of water into the sources of contamination and to "prevent leakage" of contaminated water into the environment. They concluded in a December 2013 report that it was difficult to take effective measures using only existing general knowledge and the committee asked for technical information to be further gathered from both domestic and overseas experts in the following six topics: (1) Storage of contaminated water, (2) Treatment of contaminated water, (3) Removal of radioactive materials from the seawater in the harbour, (4) Control of contaminated water within buildings, (5) Site management to restrict groundwater flowing into the site, and (6) Understanding groundwater flow including the behaviour of radionuclides. In this work efforts will be made to tackle aspects of topics 3, 4 and 5. The most problematic radionuclides at the FDNPP are Sr-90, Cs-134 & Cs-137 because they form highly soluble salts and have environmental behaviour similar to the common (excess) groundwater ions Ca2+ and K+, respectively, hence they are mobile, bioavailable and of immediate concern. Initial work at the FDNPP focused on removal of Cs at the plant and in storage vessels, this project aims to also cover the clean-up of Sr-90 and Co-60.

This joint UK/Japan (University of Birmingham, Japanese Atomic Energy Agency, Kyushu University, College of Engineering at Shibaura Institute of Technology) proposal will build on the work of an established internationally leading collaboration for the development, characterisation and testing of three novel systems for immobilisation of radionuclides. The novelty of the first set of materials is that they are designed to be removable by magnetic separation rather than traditional gravity fed fixed bed column system where effluent needs to be pumped into the system. This gives engineering flexibility and scope for use in the field; for example they could be positioned deposited in contaminated water and then magnetically collected along with attached radionuclides. The novelty of the second set of materials are that they are being designed to be made by halophilic organisms, i.e. those that live in high salt concentration environments such as seawater, and could therefore be produced and used in decontamination of harbour seawater or saline groundwater near the FDNPP. The novelty and importance of the final set of materials is a design so that they can be poured or injected into the ground to form porous barriers that will trap the targeted radionuclides and prevent their further migration. All three sets of materials will be characterised using advanced instrumentation so that the mechanism of radionuclide entrapment and the stability of incorporation is fully understood.

These materials will not only assist in the clean-up at the FDNPP but will also be available for the abatement of any future accidents and may have a role to play in UK decommissioning activities and legacy waste clean-up. Within this project the goal is to evaluate the scope of the three sets of materials to provide key data and a platform to underpin further development and process implementation in conjunction with Japanese Chemical and Civil Engineers.

Planned Impact

There are three distinct non-academic groups who will benefit from this project: companies and agencies involved in nuclear waste clean-up and decommissioning activities; Government, regulators and implementation authorities; and general society. The first group will benefit through the provision of new materials and methods to clean up existing nuclear waste generated by the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, legacy waste in the UK being managed by Sellafield Ltd and other site license operators and wastes that will be generated during the continuing programme of decommissioning not only in Japan and the UK but globally as reactors come to the end of their lifetimes. Government, regulators and implementation authorities will benefit through provision of knowledge and methods for tackling nuclear clean-up in a safe, effective way that can form part of regulated strategies and future policy. General society will benefit as this work will help to facilitate environmental restoration and also (via outreach activities) show that these difficult problems can be solved and that nuclear energy should continue to be a part of a low carbon energy mix in the UK.

Importantly, today's new reactor build is being hindered by the need to factor-in decontamination costs at the outset and it is hard to calculate these due to a paucity of information. Likewise, insurance is hard to obtain if the premium cannot be set and this can be done only with an estimate of the likely costs involved in clean-up in a 'worst case' scenario. By the end of this project with the data we obtain, we should be in a position to start to inform costs of possible solutions. In this, biomanufacturing is a 'new player' that has the major advantage that bacteria can be grown, quickly and scalably, on very simple (indeed waste) materials and that they build structured minerals from cheap ingredients which can be sourced as wastes from other processes. As the materials' capture properties benefit from moderate heating this has the dual benefit of destroying the bacteria and organic components to forestall potential risks and environmental concerns.

New immobilisation materials and technologies would be of international interest and potential use, helping to fulfil a stated aim of the 2013 HMGovernment strategy document "The UK's Nuclear Future" where a key aim is the "UK having a clear competitive edge in waste management and decommissioning technologies...through innovation and experience." This work would therefore help to promote UK government policy and directly benefit policy makers. Some aspects would help inform clean-up of legacy waste in the UK and be useful for decommissioning activities, thereby helping to inform decisions of the NDA and site license operators at Sellafield and other UK sites.

A huge challenge in the nuclear expansion which the UK must embrace to fill the impending 'energy gap' is to win public support and confidence. Our displays in schools within various PE awards have revealed a strong interest in young people to embrace nuclear technology with open minds. These are the policymakers, engineers and the insurers of tomorrow and by fostering interest we hope to attract a new generation of 'enablers' and 'implementers' ( UB offers formal training via its various relevant MSc courses, with the future possibility for part-study in Japan and vice versa). At the same time the wider public is, on the whole, thirsty for a balanced debate to help inform on final disposal solutions- a 'community issue' - and our work will continue to be conveyed via impartial public platforms such as radio (e.g. BBC:The Naked Scientists: live, phone-in) and also its associated web tools

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We have developed a new route to make magnetised zeolite ion exchangers during the project. These materials are of interest to researchers at Sellafield and the National Nuclear Laboratory and we continue working with them to test their use. These have great potential to be used in future nuclear decommissioning activities both in the UK and other countries. We also collaborated closely with Japanese partners who developed microbes that successfully precipitated insoluble strontium phosphates from seawater - a potential route to clean up the contaminated harbour near to the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. They were also supplied with some of our magnetised materials and successfully incorporated these with their microbial route to produce a hybrid system for cleanup.
Exploitation Route We continue to work with researchers at Sellafield and the National Nuclear Laboratory to develop our technolgies. We have also received funds for a short term follow-up project to investigate scaling up of our process.
Sectors Energy,Environment

URL http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/documents/1601-fukushima/
 
Description JUNO: A Network for Japan - UK Nuclear Opportunities
Amount £447,884 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P013600/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2016 
End 11/2021
 
Description Magnetised zeolites for nuclear cleanup
Amount £16,230 (GBP)
Funding ID AIREF1701 
Organisation University of Birmingham 
Department University of Birmingham EPSRC Follow On Fund
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2017 
End 04/2018
 
Description TRANSCEND: Transformative Science and Engineering for Nuclear Decommissioning
Amount £4,587,420 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/S01019X/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2018 
End 09/2022
 
Description Japan team on UK-Japan grant 
Organisation Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA)
Country Japan 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We are producing materials to be sent to them for testing and analysis
Collaborator Contribution They are characterising our samples and will be testing their ability to remediate Fukushima samples
Impact None yet
Start Year 2014
 
Description Japan team on UK-Japan grant 
Organisation Kyushu University
Country Japan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are producing materials to be sent to them for testing and analysis
Collaborator Contribution They are characterising our samples and will be testing their ability to remediate Fukushima samples
Impact None yet
Start Year 2014
 
Description Japan team on UK-Japan grant 
Organisation Shibaura Institute of Technology
Country Japan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are producing materials to be sent to them for testing and analysis
Collaborator Contribution They are characterising our samples and will be testing their ability to remediate Fukushima samples
Impact None yet
Start Year 2014
 
Description National Nuclear Laboratory 
Organisation National Nuclear Laboratory
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Producing materials for decommissioning and clean-up activities
Collaborator Contribution Discussions regarding potential application of new technologies for decommissioning
Impact None yet
Start Year 2014
 
Description An invited talk by Joseph Hriljac titled "Japan UK collaboration on developing novel restoration materials for clean-up of radionuclides in the environment" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk at the AESI in Osaka Japan
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description An invited talk by Joseph Hriljac titled "New Engineered forms of zeolites for the selective removal of Cs and Sr from effluent" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk at the Scientific Basis for Nuclear Waste Management session of the US Materials Research Society in Boston USA. After the talk various US researchers expressed an interest in the work and collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Hosted the 2016 Nuclear Waste and Decommissioning Research Forum (Birmingham) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Hosted the NWDRF meeting and presented an overview of Birmingham research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Hosted the 2016 Research Frontiers in Decommissioning and Radioactive Wast Management conference (Birmingham) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Hosted this conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description ISIS User meeting invited presentation Studies of New Ion Exchange Materials for Nuclear Clean-up 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I presented an invited talk at the combined ISIS User Meeting & Physical Chemistry Section of the British Crystallographic Association Meeting. There was discussion afterwards about our materials developments and how they can be used to clean up the environment.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Interview for radio documentary on The Naked Scientist 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I discussed our work and motivation as part of a radio documentary that featured on The Naked Scientis web site
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Invited presentation of New Porous Inorganic Solids for Radionuclide Uptake and Safe Storage at the University of Bath, School of Chemistry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact 40 researchers, a mixture of postgraduate students, academics and undergraduate students, attended a seminar that I presented
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Invited seminar by Joseph Hriljac "New Porous Inorganic Solids for Radionuclide Uptake and Safe Storage" to the School of Chemistry at the University of Reading 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited research colloquium
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Invited seminar by Joseph Hriljac "Zeolites and Zeotypes Designed for Radionuclide Removal and Long Term Immobilisation" at the University Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta, Indonesia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Invited talk to undergraduate chemists
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited talk by Joseph Hriljac "Magnetic Zeolite Composites for the Selective Uptake of Radionuclides" at Universitas Indonesia, Depok, Indonesia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Invited presentation to undergraduate students followed by question and answer session
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited talk by Joseph Hriljac "Magnetic Zeolite Composites for the Selective Uptake of Radionuclides" at Universitas Katolik Widya Mandala, Surabaya, Indonesia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Invited talk to Chemical Engineering undergraduate students
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited talk by Joseph Hriljac to the Birmingham Metallurgical Society "The Chemistry of Nuclear Waste Clean-up" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk open to the general public, sparked some interesting discussions regarding nuclear power and legacy vs contemporary issues of waste generation and cleanup
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Japan-UK Nuclear Research Collaboration Symposium and Fukushima research showcase, Embassy of Japan in the UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Joe Hriljac, Lynne Macaskie, Stephanie Handley-Sidhu and Mohamed Karmaoui attended the event for networking, information sharing and future research area topic debate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Joe Hriljac, Invited Speaker and Mentor at the Indonesia-UK link workshop Pores for thought - porous materials for greener energy and the environment 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a workshop supported by the British Council, Royal Society of Chemistry, Himpunan Kimia Indonesia, MRS-id and Ikatan Zeolit Indonesia to bring together Indonesian and UK researchers to foster collaborations. From it a co-authored journal paper has been published and future visits planned to further collaborations
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.rsc.org/events/detail/17155/workshop-on-porous-materials
 
Description Joe Hriljac, Mohamed Karmaoui and Stephanie Handley-Sidhu, Visit to Kyushu University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Visit to Kyushu University to discuss current research grant and formulate plans for future research grant application and student exchanges
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Joe Hriljac, Postgraduate training seminar (Kyushu University) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Approximately 20 engineering and sciences postgraduate students attended and there was a question and discussion session afterwards
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Mohamed Karmaoui, poster presented at the RSC Solid State Chemistry Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Annual RSC Solid State Chemistry Christmas conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Summer placement for Wai Tang 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Wai Tang, an undergraduate student, spent 8 weeks working in my research lab under the daily supervision of the PDRA on the award
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description T Ohnuki (JAEA) visit 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Toshi Ohnuki from the JAEA visited to discuss research and then presented a lecture 'Environmental Restoration of Fukushima after the Nuclear Power Incident' as part of The Birmingham Energy Institute series
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Talk at the BZA Magnetic Zeolite Nanocomposites for Nuclear Waste Cleanup 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A talk was presented at the British Zeolite Association which led to further interest and discussion from several people in the audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Tzu-Tu Chen, Participant at the Indonesia-UK link workshop Pores for thought - porous materials for greener energy and the environment 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a workshop supported by the British Council, Royal Society of Chemistry, Himpunan Kimia Indonesia, MRS-id and Ikatan Zeolit Indonesia to bring together Indonesian and UK researchers to foster collaborations. From it a co-authored journal paper has been published and future visits planned to further collaborations
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.rsc.org/events/detail/17155/workshop-on-porous-materials
 
Description Tzu-Tu Chen, Talk at the British Zeolite Association Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A talk was presented at the conference to a mixture of academics, industrialists and postgraduate students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Visit to CLADS 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A visit by ca. 10 UK researchers to the CLADS research facility in Japan
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018