Liquid low level radioactive effluents, when solidified in e. g. cement matrix, contribute to a significant extent to the waste amount to be disposed of in final repositories. Accordingly, since many years scientists and engineers investigate processes to remove the radioactive nuclides selectively from the effluents, to split the raw solution into two separate fractions: a large fraction with activity concentrations below the limits for free release; and a small fraction, containing the activity in concentrated form on e. g. ion exchanger materials (ion exchange has proven to be the most promising method for such “nuclide separation”). The challenge to be taken up is: When (and this is most often the case) the effluent contains organic materials and complexing agents, the formation of e. g. the 60-Co-EDTA complex prohibits its fixation to the ion exchangers. Accordingly the complexing agent needs to be removed or destroyed. The Institute for Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences has applied the method of hydrothermal treatment (at elevated temperature and pressure, 200 °C, 200 bar), supported by Hydrogen Peroxide oxidation, to allow virtually complete removal of radioactive nuclides on inorganic ion exchangers. Pilot plants have been operated successfully in Russian power stations, and an operational plant has been designed. The method is being extended for an interesting and promising application: spent organic ion exchange resins, loaded up to the medium activity level, represent a serious disposal problem. With the hydrothermal process, in a process cycle, the activity can be stripped from the resins, the organic content is destroyed, and the activity is fixed on an inorganic absorber, well suited for final disposal.

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