Grout may immobilize radioactive wastes at Hanford

The Tri-City Herald reports that certain radioactive wastes at the Hanford site in Washington State may be treated by mixing them into cement-based grout. The radioactive wastes from the Manhattan Project and Cold War weapons programs are in underground tanks awaiting treatment. Any acceptable treatment must immobilize radioactive and hazardous materials in the waste to limit its access to groundwater.

Originally the Washington Department of Ecology would accept only vitrification (forming into glass) of all radioactive wastes. They would accept other methods of waste treatment only if they were “as good as glass” for protecting the environment.

On May 16, scientists presented data indicating that mixing getters into the grout enhances its ability to immobilize radionuclides. That is, the getters could help keep radionuclides out of the groundwater.

Rachel Detwiler is a member of the National Academy of Sciences committee that is overseeing the scientists working on the report.