The Catholic University of America

Feb. 16, 2009

CUA's Vitreous State Laboratory Helps the UK Turn Nuclear Waste to Glass

Catholic University's Vitreous State Laboratory (VSL) has received a $138,931 grant to aid the United Kingdom in its effort to treat and safely store its nuclear waste.

The project, which started in January and continues through April of this year, involves research and development to evaluate "vitrification" (i.e., conversion to glass) as a potential treatment technology for certain types of low- and intermediate-level nuclear wastes from the Sellafield nuclear processing and former electricity-generating site on the northwest coast of England.

VSL will develop waste simulants and suitable glass formulations that meet all of the requirements to turn the partly liquid nuclear waste into solid glass that can be stored for centuries without leaching into ground water.

VSL will then perform two sets of proof-of-principle tests in an on-campus melter heated to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, with two groups of engineers and technologists from Sellafield witnessing those tests.

VSL is doing this research for EnergySolutions, a Salt Lake City-based nuclear services company that runs 22 British nuclear reactors. EnergySolutions regularly partners with the CUA laboratory in order to serve the U.S. Department of Energy and foreign nuclear power agencies.

As the nation's leading research and development laboratory for the process of turning nuclear waste into glass, VSL has taken the lead in R&D for the Department of Energy's vitrification of the massive amount of nuclear waste generated by America's production of nuclear bombs. For this and other projects, the CUA laboratory has received more than $70 million in research grants over the past 10 years.

VSL's expertise on treating nuclear waste has been sought out by government agencies in Japan, Russia and France, as well as in the UK.

MEDIA: For more information, contact Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy in Catholic University's Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600.