Research being undertaken at the University of Leeds, as part of the DIAMOND university consortium, is exploring the effectiveness of various ultrasonic technologies as in situ probes to characterize and monitor nuclear waste slurries, such as the ‘Legacy’ Magnesium hydroxide sludges found in Sellafield, U.K. Through use of a commercial Acoustic Backscatter Sensor (ABS) with 1–5 MHz transducers, various properties of free-settling oxide simulant sludges were determined. Work was focused upon characterizing essentially ‘static’ sludges (to give prospective use as tools for the wastes in current deposits); although, the sensors also have potential as dispersion monitors during any future processing and storage of the Legacy wastes, as well as many other storage, clarifier or thickener systems across a wide range of industrial processing operations. ABS data of mixed glass powder dispersions was analysed and compared to scattering theory, to understand the correlations between acoustic attenuation and particulate concentration. The ABS was also calibrated to measure changes in average particulate concentration within a settling suspension over time, and showed the depth-wise segregation of the dispersion through the settling column at different particular time intervals. It was found that observed hindered settling also led to an increase in particulate concentration over the sludge zone and significant segregation occurred at moderate time intervals, due to the broad size distribution of the aggregates measured. It is hoped in future that these sensors may be able to be fitted to robotic handlers that have been installed onsite (and previously used for sampling), allowing fully automatic in situ sludge analysis.

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