High Capacity Vacuum Pump System to Help Solve Radioactive Waste Dilemma


A leading supplier of vacuum pumps, BOC Edwards, has won a $1,000,000 contract for a large-scale vacuum pump system comprising three 30B5 vapor booster pumps and two GV Drystar pumps.

The system, built at BOC Edwards facility in Philadelphia, has been installed on the demonstration unit of the innovative Archimedes Plasma Mass Filter. Archimedes hopes to design and install commercial filter units for the treatment of 53 million gallons of toxic and radioactive waste that is stored at Hanford Nuclear Reservation, Washington, USA.

The plasma mass filter uses heat and electromagnetic fields to vaporize the waste and separate the less hazardous substances from the highly toxic radioactive components, which are then ‘vitrified’. The toxic radioactive elements are mixed with molten glass and as the glass solidifies it traps the elements within. The glass can then be stored safely without fear of leakage. The plasma mass filter could remove as much as 75 per cent of the less hazardous waste, which can be treated by a less expensive process.

The 30B5 and GV Drystar system provides the vacuum that is needed to remove the less hazardous vapor components of the process. The GV600M, the largest pump in the GV series produces a nominal peak pump capacity of 560m3/hour(330 cfm). The ‘dry’ pumping system has no bearings or lubricants in the vacuum environment - eliminating the risk of contamination, there is also an added benefit that there is no oil-change or disposal requirement.

BOC Edwards has provided complete system integration of the vacuum system including piping, valves, instrumentation, controls and installation supervision. A dedicated global applications and industrial engineering team has worked closely with the Archimedes team throughout the design and management of the project.

Archimedes believes that once the plasma mass filter is proved at Hanford Nuclear Reservation, it could provide one of the safest, most economical remediation solutions for several other nuclear waste sites.

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