By: Linda Jameson, Environmental Science and Engineering Magazine
March 11, 2012 marked one year since a 9.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the northeastern coast of Japan,generating a tsunami that ended operations at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The disaster stemmed from a series of events,the first of which was the massive tsunami, followed by a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns, and releases of radioactive materials. It is the largest nuclear disaster since Chernobylin 1986.
The Fukushima Plant was one of the largest nuclearpower stations in the world. While the plant itself covers 860 acres,the effects ofthe disaster extend far beyond and will affect human lives and the environment for decades. Read More »
Most hazardous materials, or hazmat responses involve everyday accidents: fuel or chemical spills from overturned trucks, natural gas leaks from ruptured lines, or mercury rolling free of containers. As head of the hazmat response team for the fire department of Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city and second busiest port, Troy Lilley has learned that approaching any of these seemingly known materials has to be done carefully.
“You [must be] very cautious. It may look like water and may act like water by not evaporating, but it may not be water. It may be something that causes cancer 10 years down the road,” he said. Read More »
– 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.
Under Cover: One island’s accidental discovery helps another island’s accident recovery
Japan’s nuclear decontamination effort aided by blue gel
June 14, 2011 – A serendipitous event—a happy accident—has become a hero in the efforts to help Japan recover from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant crisis stemming from meltdowns at three reactors in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami on March 11.
Honolulu-based CBI Polymers LLC, manufacturer of DeconGel nuclear decontaminant, has joined the broad-based philanthropic effort to help with the crisis in Japan by making a donation of $250,000 worth of its radiological decontamination products and technical services at the request of the Japanese Medical Association (JMA).
DeconGel’s chemical and radioactive decontamination capabilities were discovered by accident five years ago when lab researchers spilled an earlier version of the product from the lab table onto the floor during testing. When they peeled it off the next morning, the floor was completely clean and devoid of particles.
After several more years of research and development, CBI Polymers transformed that initial gel into DeconGel. The product, applied in liquid form, coagulates and dries into a peelable hydrogel with unique capacity to bind, encapsulate, and remove radioactive surface particles, the company claims.
The company has shipped 10 pallets of the gel to the Tohoku region, Japan’s most severely affected northeastern coast. In addition, it has deployed a team to help train and assist the JMA and other public health and safety agencies with the use of the gel.
“Our company is committed to environmental protection and humanitarian assistance,” said Larry Stack, president and COO of CBI Polymers. CBI Polymers LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Skai Ventures.
HONOLULU, Dec. 6 (UPI) — A company based in Hawaii says it has come up with a safer, more effective way to clean up nuclear waste — a superabsorbent substance it calls blue goo.
Cleaning up radioactive waste usually means scrubbing with soap and water, pails and brushes, a messy process that is dangerous for those exposed to dust and contaminated wastewater, an article in the National Geographic Magazine reported.
CBI Polymers says its DeconGel blue goo may not look high-tech, since all you do is pour it on, but its molecules act as a sponge when it gels, binding and encapsulating radioactive molecules.
The goo dries to a film that can be peeled off, rolled up and disposed of more cheaply and easily than vats of toxic water, the company says.
“It’s the same concept as Silly Putty. It gets into every pore, nook, and cranny,” said Hector Ramirez of the U.S. Department of Energy, who used it to clean up nuclear waste left over from weapons research at the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Oregon.
DeconGel can remove toxic elements such as lead, beryllium, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and chromium, the company says.
CBI says it donated 500 gallons to the nuclear cleanup in Japan, where it decontaminated 25,000 square feet of walls, sidewalks, and school playgrounds following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March.
CBI Polymers Inc., the U.S.-based innovator of DeconGel nuclear decontaminant, recently announced a collaborative effort to remediate radiation from the campus of the Asahimachi Baptist Church and Little Lamb Kindergarten in Fukushima, Japan, in a project the company calls “Restore Playtime.”
CBI Polymers donated its DeconGel nuclear decontaminant and the manpower to apply the blue gel to the affected areas of the school. Once dry, the gel was peeled away, taking harmful radiation with it.
DeconGel nuclear decontaminant is unique compared to traditional decontamination solutions, which mostly consist of soap and water. Multiple laboratory tests and customer field deployments have demonstrated near 100 per cent decontamination of hazardous materials ranging from uranium and cesium to PCB oils and beryllium.
DeconGel allows for waterless remediation, eliminating the environmental impact of liquid runoff and significantly reducing waste volume and disposal costs by up to 90 per cent.
The school’s headmistress, Tamiko Kokubo, was uncomfortable allowing her students to play outside for the past four and a half months because of the fear of radiation exposure from the fallout generated by the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which suffered a catastrophic breach of its containment facilities after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. The release of radioactive isotopes into the atmosphere contaminated much of the surrounding area.
To protect her students from exposure to radioactive particles, Kokubo chose not to open the playground and outdoor surfaces to the children.
While necessary for safety reasons, this closure of the outdoor facilities deprived the school’s pre-school children and elementary level students of all outdoor activities, which are important to their physical development, as well as being one of the most enjoyable parts of their day.
“Many of the fondest memories of childhood come from outdoor places and activities,” says Kokubo. “This cleanup gives our children back their outdoor playtime, not only a basic joy but one critical to successful childhood development. We appreciate the work of CBI Polymers and the donation of DeconGel.”
CBI Polymers initially provided assistance to the Fukushima disaster relief with a donation of product and technical services, valued at $250,000. Individual stories, such as the plight of the Little Lamb Kindergarten, encouraged the company to become directly involved.
“We were pleased to be part of a project helping to create a safe place for children in the midst of the unprecedented disaster,” says Galen Ho, CEO of CBI Polymers. “We look forward to expanding the applicability of DeconGel. We believe it can further the remediation efforts and help to restore a sense of wellbeing for the people of Fukushima and other affected areas.”
On August 1, 2011, CBI Polymers was selected for the U.S. Department of Commerce Export Achievement Award for its role in helping Hungary respond to its recent chemical spill disaster in 2010, and for its contribution to Japan’s earthquake and tsunami recovery efforts.
The award recognizes U.S. companies who, through the export services of the International Trade Administration’s U.S. Commercial Service, have expanded into new foreign markets.
24 May 2011 — Mopping up radioactive waste is messy work. Ever since an earthquake and a tsunami crippled Japanese nuclear power plants in March, cleanup crews have been struggling to decontaminate the area. Typically, this kind of work is performed with low-tech tools: soap, water, pads, brushes and old-fashioned elbow grease.
Scouring radioactive waste usually means just that. Scrub with soap and water, pails and brushes. Repeat. If it sounds messy, it is—and dangerous too for those exposed to dust and contaminated wastewater.
Hawaii-based CBI Polymers says it’s come up with a better way to clean up nuclear waste. The firm’s blue goo may not look high-tech; all you do is pour it. But as the superabsorbent goo gels, its molecules act as a sponge, binding and encapsulating radioactive molecules. Peel the film off and you’ve got lightweight waste that can be rolled up and disposed of more cheaply and easily than vats of toxic water.
“It’s the same concept as Silly Putty. It gets into every pore, nook, and cranny,” says the Department of Energy’s Hector Rodriguez, who used it to sop up beryllium, a hazardous metal, left over from weapons research at the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Oregon. The yearlong project cut the labor used in such efforts by 70 percent.
This year CBI donated 500 gallons to the nuclear cleanup in Japan, where it decontaminated 25,000 square feet of walls, sidewalks, and playgrounds. It’s also good on toxic PCBs, asbestos, and heavy metals like mercury—on everything from battleships to power plants—as well as nonindustrial messes. That’s heavy-duty work for such humble-looking goo.
Discover, October 2011 — Carting away large chunks of radioactive waste from a disaster area like Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is bad enough. But disposing of radioactive fallout that clings to walls, seeps into crevices, and coats rescue vehicles is an altogether more vexing problem. You can wash off the contamination with soap and water—the traditional method—but that creates sizable reservoirs of radioactive runoff, which in turn has to be trapped, treated, and stored away for centuries. CBI Polymers, a Hawaii-based manufacturer of decontamination products, has developed another option called DeconGel, which can be sprayed, troweled, or painted onto any surface. The blue liquid (which is 95 percent water and 5 percent proprietary chemicals) oozes into microscopic pores and bonds with loose material. When it hardens, it shrinks by about 20 percent, sucking up fine radioactive particles and encapsulating them in its folds.
“Our gel helps regain control of the radioactive material and produces 90 percent less waste than water,” claims Shaun McCabe, president of Asia-Pacific systems for CBI Polymers, which recently donated 100 five-gallon pails of its cleaner to the Fukushima cleanup effort and hopes to sell hundreds more there. “You can either compact that waste and dispose of it in a landfill, incinerate it and reduce its volume to ash residue, or dissolve the gel in water and then treat the water.”
Scientists working for CBI’s parent company, Skai Ventures, originally had their eye on an entirely different product when they discovered the sticky gel. While researching corneal implants, a careless lab tech accidentally dribbled an experimental compound on the floor. After it dried, workers peeled it off and discovered the floor was cleaner than they had ever seen it before. Amazed at the compound’s cleaning abilities, they pursued the science.
CBI has since enhanced the compound with chelants, additives that bind to lead dust, radioisotopes, and other hazardous materials. The company now markets the product for everything from crime-scene cleanup to decontamination of meth labs and Department of Defense sites. —Adam Piore
Isle company tests decontamination spray gel at Japan school
by MARK NIESSE, Associated Press
A Hawaii company is spraying its light-blue decontamination gel onto surfaces of a small kindergarten in Fukushima, Japan, where children currently stay inside all day to avoid dangerous nuclear pollution.
If this weekend’s decontamination of Asahimachi Baptist Church and School is successful and more effective than the traditional soap and water scrub downs, Honolulu-based CBI Polymers hopes to expand use of their product, called DeconGel, to many other hot spots affected by radiation leaked from the Fukushim a Dai-ichi nuclear plant. The plant was severely damaged after the March 11 tsunami and earthquakes.
Workers for the company were at the school beginning Friday to spray DeconGel onto concrete and tile surfaces, where they’re accompanied by a researcher who will measure the product’s success.
As the spray hardens, it absorbs radiation particles, and then the coat can be peeled from surfaces and rolled into a carpet-l ike cylinder for safe disposal. Unlike water, the gel encapsulates harmful chemicals so it’s safe to touch, the company said.
“The kids have been kept from playing outside. Their parents’ view is, ‘Why would we take the risk and have the additional exposure of having them play in the playground?’” asked Shaun McCabe, president of Asia-Pacific systems for CBI Polymers, during a phone in terview from Japan. The company donated $250,000 for the school cleanup, including gel and labor costs.
After the DeconGel is removed and contaminated playground dirt replaced, the school’s 30 children could escape their indoor confines, where radiation levels are far lower, McCabe said. The school is located in Fukushima City, about 31 miles away from the nuclear reactors.
In small tests at the school last month, the gel eliminated about 90 percent of radionuclides, said Cham Dallas, a University of Georgia public health professor measuring how well the product works at the Fukushima school this weekend.
“If it works in one school, it could be applied in many larger areas, ” he said.
Existing methods for reducing radiation levels generally involve washing walls and concrete with soap and water, which can lead to radioactive material flowing into public water systems, he said.
Even after the water process was tried at the school, his tests still found levels around 5 ,000 counts per minute in the school’s entryway, which is below the Japanese government’s action standard but still threatening over time. Areas untainted by radiation would have about 5 or 10 counts per minute.
“Soap and water does remove radion uclides, but there’s a lot that’s left behind,” he said. “You flush it down the drain and forget about it, but it’s not a very wise way of disposing radionuclides.”
Decontamination of the Fukushima area will likely take about 20 years, and local governments need to decide what methods they’ll use, Dallas said.
Water is by far Japan’s most common radiation cleaningt echnique. Several other peelable decontamination products also are available, but none has been widely used.
“The world is going to find out that DeconGel is the killer app of decontamination products. We’re trying to get it used in as wide of an application as we can,” said CBI Polymers CEO Galen Ho in Honolulu, noting he expects an order next week from Japan Self-Defense Forces to clean contaminated vehicles, bulldozers and tow trucks.
DeconGel costs $151 per gallon retail, which is a similar price as bottom paint for the hull of a commercial boat, he said. In comparison, high-quality oil-based paints cost about $80 per gallon.
Asahimachi Baptist Church and School was chosen for decontamination because it already has a connection to Hawaii, McCabe said. Some of the school’s students and teachers traveled to the islands in the chaotic weeks after March 11.
Use of DeconGel for Beryllium Cleanup Wins Department of Energy’s Environmental, Security, Safety and Health (ESS&H) Achievement Award
“Waste Management News: DeconGel a Finalist for Security Award”
Cellular Bioengineering, Inc. Honored as National Finalist for the Prestigious Christopher Columbus Homeland Security Award 2009
October 2009 – CBI Polymers Press Release
New Decontamination Gel Successfully Remove/Reduce Radionuclides from Surfaces of Buildings and Equipment
October 2009 – U.S. Department of Energy’s Environmental Management Engineering and Technology Highlights Newsletter
August 2009 – KGMB Local Ventures – Reported by Malia Mattoch McManus
August 2009 – Pacific Business News – Written by Nanea Kalani
April 2009 – KHON (Fox) 2 News – Reported by Manolo Morales
March 2009 – Radwaste Solutions – March/April Issue – Decontamination and Decommisioning
November 17, 2008 – Environmental Protection Online Magazine
September 2008 – Hawaii Business