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National laboratory licenses alternative to incineration

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November 13, 1995 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. — A safe and cost-effective alternative to incinerating hazardous wastes is available now for laboratories and other commercial and government generators of organic wastes.

Approximately 100 million tons of hazardous organic waste are incinerated annually in the United States. However, incineration is becoming unacceptable to the public and permits are more difficult to obtain. Non- thermal waste treatment methods are an attractive alternative. One such method uses electricity to fully destroy a wide variety of hazardous wastes, breaking them into inert materials such as carbon dioxide and water.

The Catalyzed Electrochemical Oxidation, or CEO process, was developed at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and has been licensed for exclusive use by EOSystems Inc. of San Jose, Calif.

Hospitals, research laboratories, chemical and pharmaceutical producers, electronics manufacturers and many other industries produce hazardous waste that can be safely destroyed by the CEO process. In addition, the Department of Defense has thousands of tons of chemical warfare agents that, by Congressional mandate, must be destroyed in the next 10 years. CEO already has been proven to destroy sarin, a nerve gas.

The CEO process generates chemical reactions, similar to those in a car battery, to destroy organic wastes. The process occurs in a self- contained unit containing an electrolyte solution that breaks down the waste when an electric current is applied. For the majority of organic compounds, the end products are inert materials such as carbon dioxide.

The proprietary unit, called a T-CELL, is a closed-loop, fully contained system. There is less concern of accidental release into the environment because the units operate at room temperature and pressure.

EOSystems has developed seven systems designed to handle large or small waste streams ranging from 300 pounds of toxic organics per day to three tons. The 300-pound system is roughly the size of a large desk.

The capital costs are significantly lower than incineration systems. "And the costs of transporting the waste can be eliminated because we have designed a portable unit," said Norvell Nelson, a chemist and vice president of EOSystems. "It can be used on waste streams that are highly toxic and cannot be moved, such as chemical weapons."

The CEO process originally was developed almost 20 years ago as a means of treating radioactive wastes from nuclear weapons manufacturing. The Northwest Laboratory began development of the technology for organic wastes about five years ago. "We have developed a process that uses nitric acid and dissolved cerium metal as a mediator to destroy virtually all liquid organic wastes and a good number of solid organics," said Northwest Laboratory program manager Jeff Surma. "The process' most attractive feature is its simplicity."

The process is under consideration for use at DOE's Rocky Flats Plant in Golden, Colo., and other DOE facilities for destruction of plutonium- contaminated combustible materials. Under contract to the Navy, CEO also is being evaluated for the destruction of Otto Fuel, a torpedo propellent.

The CEO process complements the MEO or mediated electrochemical oxidation process, which has been developed commercially over the past two years by EOSystems and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif.

"EOSystems now has exclusive rights to both technologies and will apply them according to the appropriate waste problem," said G. Anthony Steward, president and CEO of EOSystems. Each technology works in the proprietary T-CELL systems, which are designed and manufactured by EOSystems' partner, Fluoroware Inc.


Tags: Environment, Operations, Facilities

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