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Energy Department and Catholic University Improve Safety of Nuclear Waste

January 30, 2013 - 12:51pm

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Secretary of Energy Steven Chu participates in a tour of Catholic University's Vitreous State Laboratory. | Photo courtesy of the Office of Environmental Management.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu participates in a tour of Catholic University's Vitreous State Laboratory. | Photo courtesy of the Office of Environmental Management.

Secretary Steven Chu recently visited Catholic University’s Vitreous State Laboratory (VSL) to tour the various labs and projects, focusing on the work in support of the safe immobilization of nuclear wastes at Energy Department sites around the country – specifically the Hanford Plant.

During the tour, Secretary Chu and VSL Director and Professor of Physics Ian Pegg discussed potential glass formulation and melter operations enhancements related to the Hanford Tank Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant. The delegation also made stops at VSL labs doing research on biophysics and nanotechnology led by physics professors Abhijit Sarkar and John Philip.

The Vitreous State Laboratory is widely recognized as an excellent university center for the study of glassy materials. This accomplished laboratory's support to the Department over the past several years has helped continually improve efficiency in melter design and operation.

VSL experts have developed processes to more efficiently transform highly radioactive nuclear waste into stable glass that can be disposed of safely. The center provides support to various nuclear facilities in the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom.

Hanford is a nuclear and chemical waste processing facility under construction in Washington and VSL is providing research and development support. It will treat and immobilize significant quantities of legacy nuclear waste left from the manufacture of plutonium during World War II and the Cold War. Cleanup of the site began in 1989.

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