Landysh to help Japan defeat radiation
Interview with Sergey Antipov, Deputy Director of the Institute of Safe Nuclear Energy Development, Russian Academy of Sciences.
In 1983, Russia and Japan signed an agreement on providing assistance for the disposal of nuclear arms and the respective technologies, for the purposes of disarmament. Japan provided assistance to Russia within the framework of this agreement.
As part of this cooperation, Japan allocated money, which was used to build a floating plant for the treatment of liquid radioactive waste, LRW.
It has a projected treatment capacity of up to 7,000 cubic meters of liquid radioactive waste a year, but I stress that this is for low-radioactivity waste, as opposed to medium, or high radioactivity waste.
Could you explain the difference between those three levels of radioactivity?
Well, depending on the concentration of radio nuclides in the liquid, they are split into three categories. High radioactivity means that a person cannot come into contact with the liquid. Medium radioactivity liquid requires complex treatment technologies, whereas low radioactivity liquids are subject to treatment and purification. The Landysh plant is designed to treat low radioactivity LRW.
Just to explain, the principle is that liquid waste is put through various filters to get rid of hard particles first, then it is treated for liquid additives. Then it is goes through ion-exchange resins and other chemical processes, such as reverse osmosis, etc, etc. All up, this is a long and complex chain of technologies that renders water that, as the newspapers likes to say, is better quality than what’s in your tap at home. Whereas everything that’s pulled out throughout the process undergoes additional evaporation, leaving behind a concentrated radioactive mass, which has very fine cement added to it. This is then poured into 200 liter metal barrels. So you have these barrels with hard radioactive waste. They can be stored at designated land points without fear of radioactive materials seeping into the sea.
This plant was from the outset designed to be transportable between various areas. However, it spent its entire life at a wharf at the Zvezda plant, where it has never been moved from. So there is no question in principle as to whether or not it can be shifted to Japan, provided, of course, that it is compliant with naval requirements as regards its passage abilities – I don’t know whether such tests are carried out annually. The other issue is that the composition of the waste at Fukushima needs to be compatible with the technologies at the Landysh. I’ve seen in the press that Japan has requested various parameters as regards the Landysh’s scope for treatment. Depending on the responses provided by Russia, Japan will decide whether or not to have this facility brought over or not. The process, as I said, is quite expensive and this needs to be factored in.
Meanwhile, our own installation has been developed by the Chemical Institute of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences at a former Navy coastal technical base, which now belongs to Rosatom. This facility operates on the basis of local sorbents, unlike the imported sorbents used on the Landysh, which is why they are so expensive. So they have developed this facility which has a lower theoretical capacity but in actual fact has comparable treatment capacity in practice. Plus size-wise, it is tens, if not hundreds, of times smaller. So given the will and desire of the technical leaders of the project, there is scope to build such modules onto the Landysh. The Fukushima issue is very serious and all means should be used to solve this, and the Landysh is one of them.
To find out more on the issue, read or listen to our Burning Point program from April 7, 2011 in Radio section.