A large number of nuclear reactors with graphite as moderator and reflector material are facing to be decommissioned now or later, and the radioactive graphite waste is a large part of the involved wastes. In addition, high temperature gas-cooled reactors being developed rapidly use a large quantity of graphite material (up to 95%) in the nuclear fuel elements, besides graphite material as their moderator and reflector material in the reactor cores. Therefore, it is very critical to manage these graphite wastes from the decommissioned and being decommissioned reactors. The part with low-level radioactive contamination that could not be reused now, may be disposed of as solid waste to reduce its volume, and the possibility of its being retrieved and reused in the future with advanced technology should be considered. The other graphite waste with high-level radioactive contamination requires much more consideration. Due to several factors, such as its large quantity, a lack of available disposal sites and public acceptance, it may not be disposed of directly in the repository any more. An option may be the transformation of the high-level radioactive graphite waste into low-level radioactive waste through physical and chemical processes. The current technologies involve, e.g., thermal treatment to release 36Cl, capture of the 14C from the gases of incineration of carbon material and decomposition of carbon dioxide into solid carbon. After these treatments the carbon material might be decontaminated and separated as low-level radioactive waste and a small amount of residual high-level waste could be disposed of ultimately. In order to achieve a sustainable development of graphite material, the maximum utility and the minimal disposal of radioactive graphite should be considered in the management of radioactive graphite waste. It is urgent to explore new technologies for decontaminating and recycling radioactive graphite.
- Nuclear Engineering Division
Treatment and Disposal of the Radioactive Graphite Waste
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Tian, L, Wen, M, & Chen, J. "Treatment and Disposal of the Radioactive Graphite Waste." Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Nuclear Engineering. 18th International Conference on Nuclear Engineering: Volume 1. Xi’an, China. May 17–21, 2010. pp. 501-509. ASME. https://doi.org/10.1115/ICONE18-29985
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