Low-level Nuclear Waste Management
Pearlhill Technologies has unique specialized capability for fluorine extraction from depleted uranium tetrafluoride (DUF4, a “green salt”). DUF4 is obtainable from chemical processing of depleted hexafluoride (DUF6) that is a product of uranium isotopic enrichment plants (UIEPs). Pearlhill employs new, environmentally and economically sound processes in our patents for the production of nonmetallic inorganic fluorides from uranium tetrafluoride (NIFUT), including sulfur tetrafluoride (SF4), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) gases.
Uranium isotopic enrichment plants (UIEPs) separate a high concentration of isotope 235UF6 from raw uranium hexafluoride (consisting of the forms 235UF6 and 238UF6) for nuclear power generation. The process recovers approximately 97 % of the raw uranium as “depleted” 238UF6 (DUF6) “tails” waste. By volume, DUF6 is the largest waste component of the entire nuclear fuel cycle. DUF6 sublimes at 135 F, is toxic, and hydrolyzes to produce hydrofluoric acid. DUF6 is may be converted into depleted uranium tetrafluoride (DUF4) for the production of depleted uranium (DU) metal for military applications. Very few facilities in the U.S. today have the capacity to undertake the process for the conversion of DUF4 into disposable uranium forms and/or re-usable non-radioactive fluoride products. It is stored at great costs by the Department of Energy.
The Nuclear Regulatory Council (NRC) has licensed the United States Enrichment Commission (USEC), the Louisiana Energy Services (also known as URENCO-USA), and AREVA for establishment of new UIEPs in the United States to satisfy production of fuel requirements for 104 nuclear power plants in the United States. When the new UIEPs become operational at their initial stated capacity, additional tons of DUF6 waste will be added annually to over half a million tons currently in the U.S. inventory.
The United States has major public health, safety, and national security risks due to the extremely dangerous high-level nuclear waste stored in Paducah, Kentucky and Portsmouth Ohio. These huge stockpiles of Depleted Uranium Fluoride (DUF6) are sitting ducks for terrorist attacks, missile strikes, and leakage. In its current state, the pressurized storage containers for these materials are slowly corroding. Release of any or all of these extremely dangerous, volatile, radioactive gases/materials could create an environmental disaster of epic proportions.
Unfortunately, the waste cannot be stored underground because underground storage creates even more extreme risks than surface storage. The barrier and bottleneck to resolution of this problem resides in the extraction of fluorine from DUF6. The gas form of DUF6 is one of the most dangerous, toxic, and highly reactive gases. It is very risky and extremely difficult to store safely long term.
At the current rate of DUF6 disposal, it could take up to 45 years to mitigate the current waste stockpile. There is a driving need to accelerate the rate of disposal to mitigate the extreme risk and vulnerability associated with this surface storage. This will greatly increase the problem of inadequate conversion capacity. It is conceivable that the cost of conversion of DUF6 into depleted uranium oxide (DU3O8) could eventually run into several billions of dollars.
At Pearlhill, we have pioneered and patented the technology to remove non-radioactive fluorine from nuclear waste, to recycle it safely, and convert it into a non-volatile and safe form. Our technology has the potential to extract all of the fluorine in nuclear waste and safely recycle it into commercial everyday product manufacturing. There are large outlets in the current and existing commercial fluorine markets ranging from plastics and computer chip manufacturing to pharmaceuticals and agriculture.
Pearlhill Technologies teams up with MarCom, LLC (Idaho Falls) for radiological services for our transuranic waste management and remediation operations. We are also developing industry partnerships for commercialization of NIFUT technology.
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