DeconGel Approved for Disposal at U.S. Department of Energy Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP)

– Edited By Tom Lamar –

After testing performed by the Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL), decontamination product, DeconGel, has met requirements for safe transport to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico for disposal of transuranic waste (TRU).

DeconGel was used at SRNL in a headspace simulation test of disposal of a decontamination agent in a waste package after a predetermined drying and packaging time. Testing concluded that the total volatile organic compound (VOC) content in the containers after aging was below 70 parts per million by volume (ppmV). This result is well below the 500 ppmV limit established by WIPP’s CH-TRAMPAC, the document authorizing transportation of TRU material payloads in approved packaging.

“The fact that DeconGel can safely be disposed of at WIPP has major implications for DeconGel as we are better able to serve a larger clientele and fulfill their transuranic waste disposal needs,” said Larry Stack, President and Chief Operating Officer of CBI Polymers.

SRNL began testing DeconGel for use as a decontamination agent for the decommissioning of one of Savannah River Site’s plutonium processing facilities. Given the levels of plutonium in the subject facility, the waste generated from decontamination would be considered TRU waste. TRU waste can be defined as waste containing alpha-emitting transuranic isotopes with half lives greater than 20 years, and more than 100 nanocuries of TRU isotopes per gram of waste.

The sole disposal facility for TRU waste in the United States is the WIPP. WIPP TRU disposal is regulated by the State of New Mexico under the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act (HWA), which is pursuant to State authorization from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

Meeting the limits for WIPP is a key milestone for demonstrating DeconGel’s usefulness in decommissioning a plutonium facility such as the one at the Savannah River Site. In order for waste to be transferred to WIPP, it cannot contain flammable mixtures of gases in confinement, or mixtures of gases that could become flammable when mixed with air. To ensure that this flammability restriction is met by those disposing of TRU at WIPP, WIPP requires headspace testing of each waste container for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and flammable gases (e.g., hydrogen). While the predominant flammable gas of concern in TRU packages is hydrogen (due to radiolysis), the presence of methane and flammable VOCs is also limited to ensure the absence of flammable (gas/VOC) mixtures in TRU waste payloads. Testing showed that the VOCs in DeconGel would not significantly contribute to the flammable VOC levels in the headspace above TRU waste payloads.

DeconGel, a decontamination solution for chemical and radioactive threats, is a safe, peel away hydrogel that requires minimal training to use and has a stable shelf life. While DeconGel is gaining in use within Department of Energy sites for remediation of radiological, nuclear, and hazardous chemical substances, it’s also an essential product to keep on hand for hazardous materials (HAZMAT) or Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) first responder units concerned about immediate clean up after a major incident from accidents or acts of terrorism such as a dirty bomb.

Development of DeconGel was funded by the Hawaii Technology Development Venture (HTDV) / Office of Naval Research (ONR). Additional R&D funding was secured through the National Defense Center of Excellence for Research in Ocean Sciences (CEROS) under its contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the Department of Energy.

CBI Polymers focuses on polymer based products used in a variety of industries from nuclear decontamination to hazardous industrial chemicals and material decontamination. In 2005, CBI Polymers was named a winner of the R&D 100 Award and was nominated for The 2009 National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honor for technological achievement bestowed by the President of the United States on America’s leading innovators. In October, CBI Polymers was honored as one of three National Finalists for the Christopher Columbus Foundation Homeland Security Award for 2009.

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