Hazardous waste: Veolia Starts Operations of a State-of-the-art GeoMelt® Nuclear Waste Vitrification Facility in Texas to treat legacy waste
- Groundbreaking patented technology makes management of low-level nuclear waste safer, simpler and more cost-effective to treat and dispose
- GeoMelt® technology has the potential to become a new benchmark solution for the treatment of complex waste, both in the United States and across the globe
- Legacy waste originates from nuclear decontamination and decommissioning activities at U.S. Government sites
Andrews, Texas – Veolia, via Veolia Nuclear Solutions - Federal Services (VNSFS), has started operations on its new GeoMelt® vitrification facility in Andrews, Texas. The VNSFS team has already successfully vitrified one full stream of low-level radioactive waste from the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), melting the waste into glass that’s 10 times stronger than concrete, more economical to dispose of, and significantly safer to the environment. This is the second commercial vitrification facility in the United States, the first one also built by Veolia in Richland, Washington.
Vitrification is the process of converting nuclear waste into glass and is the preferred method of nuclear waste management for many types of material. The leach resistance of the resulting glass is among the highest of all materials in the world. But for years, vitrification has been considered too costly and complicated to utilize widely and commercially.
By reducing process complexity and pretreatment needs, Veolia’s patented GeoMelt® process has made vitrification the most cost-effective and safe method for treating low-level, reactive metal wastes. Now, with Veolia’s new vitrification facility, located on the Waste Control Specialists site in Texas, the company has grown the commercial availability of vitrification technology in the United States and is poised to expand the types of low-level nuclear materials for which it can be used for disposal.
Pioneered by Veolia, the GeoMelt® technology has the potential to become a new benchmark solution for the treatment of complex waste, given its advantages over existing technologies and its relatively simple industrial implementation, as well as its significant reduction in the volume of waste after treatment, especially compared to current cement-based immobilization technologies. In France, Veolia has recently launched jointly with French electric utility company EDF “Waste2Glass,” a joint venture to develop innovative solutions to treat low-level radioactive waste using the GeoMelt® technology.
This technology has already been used to treat more than 27,000 tons of radioactive and hazardous waste worldwide.
“Our GeoMelt® technology has the potential to make the process of managing nuclear waste simpler, safer for the environment and more cost-effective. That’s why this is a major milestone for our company and the industry. As we further mature the technology, we hope to expand the application of GeoMelt® to higher levels of nuclear material,” said Brett Campbell, Vice President of Technology Deployment, VNSFS.
The GeoMelt® process is designed to drastically reduce the cycle of contamination that nuclear waste goes through during processing. Using a batch process, GeoMelt® places the waste in a container, treats it and then disposes of the waste in the same container.
“Idaho National Lab is like most other DOE (U.S. Department of Energy) sites and even some commercial nuclear facilities around the United States. We all have decades-old legacy waste that has not had a viable, cost-effective disposition path. GeoMelt® is a simple solution that works very effectively,” said Bob Miklos, INL Director of Production Facilities: Fuel Recycling, Nuclear Fuels Management and Waste Management at INL.
Miklos said GeoMelt® and Veolia are helping INL now and in the future. “We’ve got a great vision for how this enables the Idaho National Lab mission to deal with our legacy waste and the enduring mission of the national laboratory. Our mission, our strategy is to dispose of our waste off-site. That’s our primary preference. We couldn’t do it unless we partnered with industry – with Veolia and Waste Control Specialists. The vision for how we can utilize this now and for even expanding waste streams in the future is viable now because of this.”
 the U.S.-based subsidiary of Veolia Nuclear Solutions.
To learn more about GeoMelt® technology and the new VNSFS facility in Texas, view this video.