Thermal plasma torches convert electricity to high-temperature thermal energy by applying a high voltage across a flowing gas stream. Plasma torches are used extensively for producing metallic and ceramic coatings and also for vitrifying hazardous materials, such as asbestos-contaminated wastes. In the last decade, several thermal plasma processes have been proposed for treating municipal solid wastes (MSW). This research is based on a critical analysis of previous work by the Earth Engineering Center and on published reports and examines the possibilities for the proposed thermal plasma (TP) processes to be recover energy from MSW as an alternative to the conventional waste-to-energy (WTE) by grate combustion. In particular, this study will investigate two prominent thermal plasma technologies that are presently under development: The Alter NRG “Westinghouse” process in the U.S. and the Europlasma process in France. The environmental impacts and the technical economic aspects of plasma-assisted WTE processes will be compared to the traditional process of MSW combustion on a moving grate.

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