Organic compounds of various kinds have been used in the nuclear industry for numerous duties in uranium chemical, metal and ceramic processing plants. In the course of the various operations undertaken, these organic compounds have become contaminated with uranic material, either accidentally or as an inevitable part of the process. Typically, the chemical/physical form and/or concentration of the uranic content of the organics has prevented disposal.

In order to address the issue of contaminated liquid organic wastes, the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) has developed a suite of treatments designed to recover uranium and to render the waste suitable for disposal. The developed processes are operated at industrial scale via the NNL Preston Laboratory Residue Processing Plant.

The Oil Waste Leaching (OWL) Process is a fully industrialised process used for the treatment of contaminated oils with approximately 200 tonnes of uranium contaminated oil being treated to date. The process was originally developed for the treatment of contaminated tributyl phosphate and odourless kerosene which had been adsorbed onto sawdust. However, over the years, the OWL process has been refined for a range of oils including “water emulsifiable” cutting oils, lubricating oils, hydraulic oils/fluids and “Fomblin” (fully fluorinated) oils.

Chemically, the OWL process has proved capable of treating solvents as well as oils but the highly volatile/flammable nature of many solvents has required additional precautions compared with those required for oil treatment. These additional precautions led to the development of the Solvent Treatment Advanced Rig (STAR), an installation operated under an inert atmosphere. STAR is a small “module” (100 dm3 volume) which allows the treatment of both water miscible and immiscible solvents.

This paper discusses the challenges associated with the treatment of liquid organic wastes and the process developments which have allowed a wide range of materials to be successfully treated.

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