A national program managed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory has identified what may be one of the better technologies for treating certain waste streams without using incineration.
The Transuranic and Mixed Waste Focus Area (TMFA) sponsored by the DOE Office of Science and Technology, has chosen the AEA Technology Engineering Service's "Silver II" method for further testing. AEA Technology Engineering is based in Virginia.
"Silver II" chemically oxidizes molecules. The process operates at low temperature, is easy to control, treats most organic wastes, reduces waste volume, produces no dioxins or low-emission volumes containing polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and does not require pretreatment for small solids, slurries or liquid wastes. Pretreatment of larger solid organic waste may still be required.
The U.S. Army was already testing "Silver II" at the Aberdeen Proving Ground to destroy chemical weapons agents, and recently tested surrogate waste types for DOE to assist the Department in its effort to find effective and affordable alternatives to incineration.
"We jumped at the chance to test this technology because the pilot plant is already built," said Vince Maio, INEEL's manager of the TMFA's Alternatives to Incineration program. "That enables us to do a quick, cost-effective test of one of the top technologies we identified as an alternative to incineration."
If "Silver II" is successful in treating surrogate mixed waste, the process will likely be tested and possibly used for several difficult waste streams containing organics and other combustible materials from active handling operations at DOE's Savannah River Site and Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Several years before the INEEL began managing the national TMFA program for DOE in 1995, INEEL scientists and engineers began looking into methods of treating waste without the need for incineration. Research efforts to find alternatives intensified in the late 1990s after DOE announced plans to close two of its incinerators-including one at the INEEL.
Finding alternatives to incineration through the INEEL's TMFA continues to be at the forefront of DOE's research efforts. More than a half dozen technologies are in various stages of development at other DOE labs and universities. This multi-million-dollar effort also involves private companies. Research alternatives range from biodegradation, thermal desorption and super critical water oxidation to low- temperature stabilization.
In addition to managing the national TMFA for DOE, the INEEL fills the role of DOE's lead lab for environmental management. In this role, one of the Lab's missions is to identify and use innovative technologies, like those identified by DOE's focus areas, for environmental cleanup.
The INEEL is a science-based, applied engineering national laboratory dedicated to supporting the U.S. Department of Energy's missions in environment, energy, science and national security. The INEEL is operated by Bechtel BWXT Idaho, LLC.