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Fixative Research

With the increasing number of excess nuclear facility assets awaiting final disposition, the scope of the Deactivation & Decommissioning (D&D) challenge is extensive. Many of the facilities to be decommissioned are one-of-a-kind, with unprecedented scope and complexity.

The Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management (DOE-EM), in conjunction with Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL), DOE field offices, other DOE national laboratories, numerous academic institutions and private industry continually pursues viable, achievable solutions through advanced science and technology. This remains a core doctrine for DOE to achieve facility disposition.

Essential to almost every facility decommissioning process is the application of fixatives, coatings and gels (FCGs). SRNL has spearheaded the evaluation of material applications for immobilizing dispersible radioactive contamination deposited on buildings and equipment as might result from anticipated to unanticipated events to include normal operating conditions, decommissioning, and radiological release. Materials typically used for decontamination operations may not conform to the operational needs for a fixative coating material.

SRNL in conjunction with the Idaho National Laboratory, and Florida International University Applied Research Center have been comparing and assessing commercially-available FCGs, with the expectation of engineering an Incombustible Fixative. A commercially available fire resistant—Intumescent coating material has undergone extensive laboratory material testing to assess its viability as a radiological fixative. Thus far, results have been very encouraging.

  Fixative Research
Fire resistant qualities of intumescent coatings (middle) Adapting Intumescent Coatings as Incombustible Fixatives to Address Safety Basis Requirements

The objective of this FIU-SRNL collaborative research effort is to address a high priority operational and safety requirement highlighted by the Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board (DNFSB) and SRS site personnel to support D&D risk reduction activities for the SRS 235-F PuFF facility. A review of Basis for Interim Operations (BIOs) across the DOE EM Complex outline contingency scenarios involving a potential release of residual radioactive contamination resulting from thermal (fire) and seismic stressors.

Fire resistant qualities of intumescent coatings (middle) Enhancement of Fire Resiliency in Industry Fixatives

The objective for this research is to improve the operational performance of fixatives by enhancing their fire resiliency. Most fixatives begin to see degradation between 200-400°F, at which time radioisotopes could potentially be released into the environment. Intumescent coatings develop a thick char to insulate the substrate and protect it from fire and extreme heat conditions. The layering or combining of an intumescent coating with the fixative is being investigated as a way to mitigate the release of radioisotopes during fire and/or extreme heat conditions.

Samples from FX2 fogging test (left). DOE Fellow imaging samples for analysis (right) FX2 Advanced Fogging Technology Testing and Evaluation

The objective for this task was to test and evaluate the FX2 Advanced Fogging Technology, developed at INL, for potential implementation at the SRS 235-F facility to better address potential airborne contaminants; this technology is relevant to D&D activities at other DOE sites and internationally. The FX2 fogging agent is a proprietary mixture of water, latex paint, glycerin, and sodium lauryl sulfate. It displayed promising results at fixing potential airborne contamination such as dust and lint via cost effective, remote application methods during initial testing at INL in 2014. FIU, in collaboration with INL and SRNL, expanded on these initial results by testing and evaluating the fogging agent at FIU. INL is also collaborating on related research with UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL).

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