Soil Decontamination

General Information  

Full Title
Development of electrokinetic and chemical methods for rehabilitation of soil and ground water contaminated by radionuclides and heavy metals.

Tech Area / Field
  • ENV-SPC: Environment / Solid Waste Pollution and Control

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 Project completed

Registration date

Senior Project Manager
Kondratenkov Yu B

Project Officer/Assistant
Pobedimskaya D D

Leading Institute
Federal State Unitary Enterprise Research and Development Institute of Power Engineering named after N.A.Dollezhal

Supporting institutes

  • Sandia National Laboratories
  • ISOTRON Corporation

Project Summary  

The work which is proposed in this project envisions utilization of the skills of nuclear weapons scientists who are already knowledgeable in the nuclear fuel cycle. (The goal is to address the cleanup of radionuclides from soil and groundwater.) The staff will be recruited from the weapons production, as well as plutonium and uranium production industries.

In the long term, the fruition of this work will provide incalculable benefit not only to the "CIS", but also to all humanity. The focus of the work is the advancement of the science of cost effective cleanup of radionuclide contaminated soil.

It is generally recognized that much of the potential for the cost effective cleanup of contaminated soil will be conditioned on an expanded understanding of certain fundamental principles related to sorption and desorption of contaminants on soil minerals. Such an extensive program is generally beyond the potential funding capability of any single commercial entity. This work can be undertaken by the ISTC in a program utilizing former nuclear weapons scientists. This program is to be managed by a group of scientist-managers who are affiliated via a joint venture of American and Russian firms. This joint venture called "ENERGOPOOL/ISOTRON" is presently pursuing the commercial application of "Electrically Forced Technology for Radioactive and Heavy Metal Contaminated Soil Cleaning".

The technology for electrically forcing contaminants through soils has been advanced to the point of maturity, however, the full potential for use of this technology cannot be achieved until certain fundamental supporting technologies are advanced. One such technology, known as "Complexant Enhanced Desorption" is important to the successful development of an efficient electrokinetic remediation technology. Several alternative soil-remediation technologies (such as soil washing) could also benefit from the development of improved complexant desorption mechanisms. The goal of this basic research work is to develop an understanding of the soil-contamination kinetics, and ultimately to develop complexants that will solubilize the "target" contaminant metals without stripping the soil of the vital nutrients which are essential to its future agricultural use.

ISTC support is needed to finance this complexant research, as well as basic research into soil decontamination, advanced RF energy enhancement and ultrasonics. The work will be carried out by former nuclear weapons scientists and engineers, who will be recruited to work inclose cooperation with recognized experts who are associated with the cognizant Russian institutes. These institutes are experienced in the soil remediation field. The following are examples of active projects: Decontamination of cesium contaminated soils (firm Radon), Decontamination of Groundwater Associated with Mining Projects (VNIPIPT), Uptake of Radionuclides by Plants (Institute of Agricultural Radiology), Decontamination of Soil in St. Petersburg, Kyshtym and Chernobyl Areas (Khiopin Institute, MAYAK), Cleanup of Radionuclide Contaminated liquids in Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant in Zarechni in the Ural Region (Ekaterinburg branch of RDIPE).

The work which is envisioned in this program will emphasize the advancement of techniques for

desorbing and solubilizing uranium, plutonium and other heavy metals in the soil, using environmentally friendly techniques.

The probability of success of this project is high, because the science of soil cleaning is enhanced when the problem is approached through a systematic understanding of soil mineral/contaminant interactions, and the mechanisms that are used by nature to accomplish desorption of such problem contaminants. This program will advance world's understanding of such processes by turning to the function of specific plant roots in cleaning a soil substrate (phytoremediation). This technology involves selective desorption (mobilization of contaminants) from an otherwise insoluble mineral/contaminant matrix. Nature provides effective and highly specific complexants for selective desorption from soil minerals. Using nature's lessons, the project scientists will pursue cost effective and "environmentally innocent" analogues for enhancing the soil decontamination procedures.

This program will be managed by ENERGOPOOL (with technical assistance by ISOTRON Corporation). A preliminary objective is to advance the technology very quickly so as to permit a rapid deployment for full scale industrial service.

This group of scientists will use advanced analytical methods such as neutron activation analysis and ion-chromatography to study the environmental consequences of complexant use. To date, there is no generally accepted testing criteria for declaring a complexant "environmentally safe". Ultimately, an "International Standard" could be drafted which would deal with "Quantifying Risk Associated with the Use of Complexants in Soil Cleanup".

An essential element of the management task, that is to be accepted by the ISOTRON/ENERGOPOOL joint venture, is a coordination effort that insures the work already underway in various western world research facilities is not duplicated by the Russian work. It is noteworthy that complementary work is being pursued by scientists at Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, University of New Mexico, and Tulane University in the USA. Equally important, there is work underway in Japan (Skinkai's work on calixarenes), in Germany (Boehem on RF enhanced ion mobility), and in the USA's Battelle Institute (ultrasonic enhanced soil decon).

ENERGOPOOL in Moscow will provide the day-to-day management of the activities in Russian institutes. The technical progress will be prepared by ENERGOPOOL and forwarded to ISOTRON for distribution to ISTC sponsors.

ENERGOPOOL, with the support of some RDIPE staff members, will have the lead role operating the Soil Decontamination Laboratory (SDL) which will be located in Moscow. Once the laboratory has developed the required expertise and reputation, it will extend its services to independent sponsorship, eventually reducing its dependence on the ISTC for financial support.

The potential application of the technology which is developed by the SDL and associated scientists would not be limited to an advancement of the Electrokinetic Extraction Process. For example, the team of scientists will also work on soil washing efficiencies. (Ultimately, this team

may study "spin off technologies such as advanced chemical mining techniques.) Another important task is the study of soil fertility after the selective removal of contaminants using this "engineered complexants" and methods that will "reconstitute" the soils for optimum agricultural service, when appropriate.