Cleanup efforts around the tsunami-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant are expected to require decades — up to 50 years, in fact. However, if a new radiation decontamination technology from Toshiba and IHI pans out, that date will come much, much sooner.
The SARRY-Aqua (Simplified Active water Retrieve and Recovery sYstem) is a trailer-mounted machine the size of an international shipping container — approximately 6.1m long. It's designed deploy on-site at reservoirs, pools, or ponds and to remove radioactive caesium from water.
Contaminated water is pumped into the system, where it cycles past a specialised crystalline absorbent. This absorbent binds to the caesium molecules as well as iron ions in the water. This effectively magnetises the caesium, allowing it to be easily removed using magnets. The caesium is then stored on-board the trailer for transport to a disposal or storage facility.
The SARRY-Aqua is highly efficient. It can reduce the concentration of caesium from 500 becquerels per kilogram to 10Bq/kg — that's 20 times less than the Japanese Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry currently limits it to 200Bq/kg. The Ministry has reportedly been working to lower that threshold to the 10Bq/kg level. It can process a tonne of water every hour and carries enough absorbent to clean 200t of water in a go.
Toshiba and IHI also contend that the SARRY system is capable of removing as much as 97 per cent of caesium from contaminated soils as well. Toshiba stated that the SARRY is currently able to process 1.7t of radioactive soil daily, though that figure could increase 100-fold in future iterations.
The systems could also one day find use decontaminating radioactive ash from garbage incineration plants. Fantastic, that's one less bin I'll have to sort for trash day. [JapanProbe - TechOn! - IHI - Next Big Future - Japan Today - Mainichi Japan]
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