Nuclear Decontamination


Zeolite is commonly used in the nuclear power industry to prevent radionuclide’s from escaping radiation waste disposal sites. [ Radioactive Waste: Production, Storage, Disposal (NUREG/BR-0216 ],  

At the Hanford Nuclear Facility in Richland, Washington, radioactive strontium-90 (Sr 90 ) and cesium-137 (Cs 137 ) have been removed from radioactive waste solutions by passing them through tanks packed with the natural zeolite clinoptilolite. 

Zeolites, because of their natural affinity to adsorb radioactive nucleides such as Cesium and Strontium are one of the prime materials used to clean up nuclear power plant disasters. The fact that 5 out of global total of 400 nuclear power plants have failed (1.25% failure rate) is indeed reason for grave concern and greater precautions need to be taken to prevent future man-made accidents.    




Nuclear disaster history:

March 28, 1979        –  Three Mile Island

April 26, 1986           –  Chernobyl

This disaster released thirty to forty times the radioactivity of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The main radioactive isotopes from the Chernobyl accident were 137Cs, 134Cs, 90Sr, and 89Sr. About 450,000 tons of zeolite were used in decontamination efforts. Zeolites added to soils reduced the uptake of 137Cs by pasture plants in the vicinity of Chernobyl

March 11, 2011       –  Fukushima, Japan   (Three reactors)

Zeolites continue to be used to help clean up the Fukushima disaster.    Zeolites were dumped into the water surrounding the plant in order to absorb toxins from the water in order to prevent dispersion. Zeolites has also been added to soils of rice fields in the vicinity of Fukushima to reduce the uptake of 137Cs by rice plants. 

Zeolites are currently is used to remove Sr and Cs from low-level effluents from a nuclear power plant before they are released to the Irish Sea at Sellafield, U.K., and to capture these isotopes from leaking repository containers at West Valley, NY Mumpton: magic rock