The nitrate to ammonia and ceramic (NAC) process for the denitration and immobilization of low-level radioactive liquid waste (LLW)

Ivan Muguercia, Florida International University


Hazardous radioactive liquid waste is the legacy of more than 50 years of plutonium production associated with the United States' nuclear weapons program. It is estimated that more than 245,000 tons of nitrate wastes are stored at facilities such as the single-shell tanks (SST) at the Hanford Site in the state of Washington, and the Melton Valley storage tanks at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee. In order to develop an innovative, new technology for the destruction and immobilization of nitrate-based radioactive liquid waste, the United State Department of Energy (DOE) initiated the research project which resulted in the technology known as the Nitrate to Ammonia and Ceramic (NAC) process. However, inasmuch as the nitrate anion is highly mobile and difficult to immobilize, especially in relatively porous cement-based grout which has been used to date as a method for the immobilization of liquid waste, it presents a major obstacle to environmental clean-up initiatives. Thus, in an effort to contribute to the existing body of knowledge and enhance the efficacy of the NAC process, this research involved the experimental measurement of the rheological and heat transfer behaviors of the NAC product slurry and the determination of the optimal operating parameters for the continuous NAC chemical reaction process. Test results indicate that the NAC product slurry exhibits a typical non-Newtonian flow behavior. Correlation equations for the slurry's rheological properties and heat transfer rate in a pipe flow have been developed; these should prove valuable in the design of a full-scale NAC processing plant. The 20-percent slurry exhibited a typical dilatant (shear thickening) behavior and was in the turbulent flow regime due to its lower viscosity. The 40-percent slurry exhibited a typical pseudoplastic (shear thinning) behavior and remained in the laminar flow regime throughout its experimental range. The reactions were found to be more efficient in the lower temperature range investigated. With respect to leachability, the experimental final NAC ceramic waste form is comparable to the final product of vitrification, the technology chosen by DOE to treat these wastes. As the NAC process has the potential of reducing the volume of nitrate-based radioactive liquid waste by as much as 70 percent, it not only promises to enhance environmental remediation efforts but also effect substantial cost savings. ^

Subject Area

Engineering, Mechanical|Engineering, Nuclear|Engineering, Environmental

Recommended Citation

Muguercia, Ivan, "The nitrate to ammonia and ceramic (NAC) process for the denitration and immobilization of low-level radioactive liquid waste (LLW)" (1997). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9820079.