France's EDF and water, waste and energy management company Veolia will early next year create a joint venture - to be known as Waste2Glass - to develop Veolia's GeoMelt vitrification technology. The partners hope to extend the application of the technology beyond high-level radioactive waste.

GeoMelt glass (Image: Veolia)

Developed in 1980 by the US Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the GeoMelt process immobilises radioactive waste in a glass matrix to produce a stable and durable waste form that is easy to transport and store. GeoMelt has already been used to treat 26,000 tonnes of radioactive and hazardous waste, particularly at sites including Hanford in the USA and Sellafield in the UK. The technology was acquired in 2012 by US radioactive waste management specialist Kurion, which Veolia acquired in 2016.

Waste2Glass will be based in Limay in the Île-de-France region in north-central France. It will be near a new pilot unit that will incorporate the GeoMelt process, recently commissioned by Veolia to carry out demonstrations and obtain the certifications required for the industrial deployment of the process.

"Due to its technical nature and cost, vitrification has until now been reserved for highly radioactive waste," EDF and Veolia said in a joint statement. "Thanks to the complementary know-how of the two partners, Waste2Glass will be able to take up the challenge of the industrial deployment of the GeoMelt technology, which will make it possible to broaden and simplify the use of the vitrification process for a wider range of waste types."

In December 2019, EDF and Veolia established the Graphitech joint venture for the technological development and engineering studies required in preparation for decommissioning nuclear reactors that use graphite technology. The venture will develop remote-operated tools to break up complex, large-scale concrete and metal structures, as well as tools to extract activated graphite bricks and piles. It will also design systems and articulated arms to enable deployment of these tools.

"Our business and our purpose as a world leader of the ecological transformation is to offer innovative technologies and solutions for the management of complex waste such as hazardous and radioactive waste," said Veolia Chairman and CEO Antoine Frérot. "I am delighted that we have taken this further step in our collaboration with EDF with the creation of Waste2Glass. It will enable a real change of scale through the industrialisation of GeoMelt, which will make it possible to treat radioactive waste more safely and more economically, with a reduction in storage volumes."

EDF Chairman and CEO Jean Bernard Lévy added: "After Graphitech, the creation of Waste2Glass illustrates not only the quality of the cooperation between our two companies, but also the EDF Group's commitment to the development and industrial application of truly innovative solutions for the treatment of radioactive waste, a key issue for bringing nuclear power into the mainstream of sustainable development and helping to build a carbon-free future."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Thursday, 02 December 2021
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