[CUA Office of Public Affairs]           

May 11, 2004


CUA Scientists Invent New Waste Treatment for Nuclear Power Plants

New Process Reduces Radioactive Material in Liquid Waste by 30 to 40 Percent


Researchers at The Catholic University of America’s Vitreous State Laboratory (VSL) have developed a new treatment process for the removal of Antimony-125, a radionuclide (radioactive form of an element), from liquid nuclear waste. The process is five times more effective than existing processes employed by nuclear power plants. Developed with funding by Duratek, Inc., the new process will help utilities meet increasingly stricter regulatory limits on the release of their liquid waste discharges, or effluents, while reducing the amount of secondary waste generated.


“This new treatment will allow us to economically clean antimony from the waste water coming from these reactors, which therefore will eliminate between 30 and 40 percent of the radioactivity that these reactors are currently releasing into wastewater streams,” said VSL Co-Director Pedro “Pete” Macedo, who developed the treatment process with his VSL colleague Miguel Penafiel, a CUA research associate. “All the nuclear power plant facilities in operation are in compliance with regulatory limits, but we’ll be pushing those limits down to make them even safer for the environment. And once a facility proves they can do a better job of removing antimony from their waste water, it will push regulatory authorities to ask the rest to meet those standards as well.”


Currently, there is particular emphasis on reducing levels of the effluent Antimony-125 from nuclear power plant wastewater. Duratek, a provider of radioactive waste treatment for nuclear power plants around the country, sponsored the development of the Durasil-125 Ion Exchange Process for the Removal of Antimony-125 (patent pending**) by Penafiel and Macedo.  Experiments performed at the VSL demonstrated that good results could be achieved using both simulated and actual wastewater from TXU Energy’s Comanche Peak Steam Electric Station, a pressurized water reactor (PWR) located in Glen Rose, Texas.


“The reason we were so successful is because we were able to use basic science to come up with a solution with practical applications,” said Professor Macedo. “Rather than trying to make an existing system more efficient, we went back to the science and found a new way to do the job.”


Duratek, the liquid waste-processing provider at Comanche Peak, is performing on-site verification testing to corroborate the results achieved at the VSL. The confirmation testing is the last step prior to using the new process in full-scale operation.


Robert E. Prince, Duratek’s President and CEO said, “Development of this new process is an example of Duratek’s continued commitment to innovative solutions for our customers.  This new process can be applied to all of the 41 PWR plants in the U.S.  Duratek currently has its systems at 11.”


CUA’s Vitreous State Laboratory engages some of the world’s leading glass scientists to help research and develop methods for safe containment of disposed radioactive materials, primarily by converting nuclear waste into solid glass using vitrification techniques. The VSL has provided scientific oversight for converting more than 2.6 million pounds of radioactive waste into glass for storage at facilities in New York and South Carolina. The lab currently is under contract to help stabilize and clean up waste contained at the Hanford Site, a disposal facility in eastern Washington State housing more than 54 million gallons of highly toxic, high-level radioactive waste.


Duratek, Inc., is a leader in providing safe, secure radioactive materials disposition.  Duratek utilizes people, technology and assets to help solve its customers’ radiological challenges.  One of the areas where Duratek is a leader is providing wastewater treatment technologies for nuclear power plants. The company provides sophisticated membrane and ion exchange based water treatment technologies to approximately 15 facilities. These systems have successfully processed over 925 million gallons of radioactive liquid waste.


MEDIA: To arrange for interviews with VSL researchers Macedo and Penafiel, contact

                Chris Harrison at the CUA Office of Public Affairs, at 202-319-5600. For more

                 information about Duratek, contact George McGrath of McGrath Matter Associates

                 at (212) 626-6728.







** Certain statements contained in this press release may constitute "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of Section 21E(i)(1) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Such forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause the Company's actual results to be materially different from any future results expressed or implied by these statements. Such factors include the following: the Company's ability to manage its commercial waste processing operations, including obtaining commercial waste processing contracts and processing waste under such contracts in a timely and cost-effective manner; the Company's ability to implement new waste processing strategies in a timely and cost-effective manner; the Company's ability to control its commercial waste processing operating costs; the timing and award of contracts by the U.S. Department of Energy for the cleanup of waste sites administered by it; the Company's ability to integrate acquired companies; and the acceptance and implementation of the Company's waste treatment technologies in the government and commercial sectors. All forward-looking statements are also expressly qualified in their entirety by the cautionary statements included in the Company's SEC filings, including its quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and its annual report on Form 10-K.



 Back to top of page

Any questions or comments? cua-public-affairs@cua.edu


Revised: 2/23/2004

All contents copyright © 2004.
The Catholic University of America,
Office of Public Affairs.