Japan to test tritium removal technologies

10 September 2014

Japan has selected three overseas companies to construct demonstration projects to verify the suitability of their technologies for removing tritium from contaminated water at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) announced on 26 August that it had selected the USA's Kurion, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Canada and Russia's FSUE Radioactive Waste Management Enterprise (RosRAO) to demonstrate their respective tritium separation technologies.

METI launched a request for proposals for water decontamination measures last September, with the closing date for offers being 23 October 2013.

An expert review panel from the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning reviewed the proposals. It said that although many proposals been received, "There was no proposal that showed an immediate applicability" to the removal of tritium from contaminated water at Fukushima Daiichi.

The government's committee on countermeasures for contaminated water treatment said in December, "Since technologies that have a quick effect in separating tritium have not been found after collecting technical proposals from both inside and outside of Japan, it will be necessary in the future to assess measures proposed in response to our requests for information."

A call for proposals for demonstrating tritium separation technology was launched in mid-May, with a closing date of 17 July.

The aim of the demonstration projects is both to verify the tritium separation technology and also to assess the construction and operating costs for full-scale implementation of the technology at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The technology must be capable of removing tritium from water with concentrations of 0.6 and 4.2 million bequerels per litre and to be expandable to process more than 400 cubic metres per day.

A fund to subsidise the projects is being managed by the Mitsubishi Research Institute on behalf of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, part of METI. The upper limit for subsidies will be JPY 1 billion ($9.4 million) per project. The projects will run until the end of March 2016.

While the current decontamination equipment at Fukushima Daiichi is able to remove some 62 nuclides from the contaminated water, it is unable to remove the tritium in it. METI said it has yet to decide whether to introduce tritium removal facilities at the plant.

Tritium - a radioactive chemical - is produced during the operation of water-cooled reactors and its usual disposal route is a monitored outflow to a large body of water.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News