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Ecologists spawn new use for PIT tags

RICHLAND, Wash. Fishing for a way to assess mixing behavior in treatment tanks for radioactive waste, ecologists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory came up with an innovative use of radio frequency technology previously used to track migrating fish.

But rather than swimming out to sea implanted in young steelhead and salmon, thousands of passive integrated transponder, or PIT, tags were added to a clay simulant and then whipped around in tests of air sparger and pulse jet mixer equipment in large test tanks and scaled prototypes.

This novel application of the PIT tags provided a means of assessing fluid motion without sampling. Performance results from the tests led to equipment configurations adopted for implementation, said Dean Kurath, an engineer with PNNL's radiochemical engineering group. The Hanford Waste Treatment Plant, currently under construction at the Department of Energy's Hanford Site in Washington state, will be the world's largest facility for treating highly radioactive waste. The Hanford Site stores 53 million gallons of the waste from past production of plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons program in 177 underground tanks.

Waste slurries of various compositions and thicknesses will be mixed in several different tanks in preparation for immobilizing the radioactive waste in glass through a process of vitrification or "glassifying." Mixing the materials will maintain homogeneity in process vessels, limit solids settling and stratification, improve heat transfer and mix in various process solutions. Mixing will also provide for the controlled release of flammable gases generated by the breakdown of organic materials in the waste slurries.

Bechtel National Inc., which is designing and building the Waste Treatment Plant for DOE, enlisted PNNL to help determine the best designs and technologies for mixing the mudlike waste that will be present in some of the approximately 20,000-gallon tanks. Technologies under consid
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Contact: Judith Graybeal
graybeal@pnl.gov
509-375-4351
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
4-Oct-2005


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