In France, two options can be considered to handle the Very Low Level Waste (VLLW) and the Low Level Waste (LLW). The first one is the incineration at CENTRACO facility and the second one is the disposal at ANDRA sites. The waste acceptance in these two channels is dependent upon the adequacy between the waste characteristics (physical chemistry and radiological) and the channel specifications. If the waste characteristics and the channel specifications (presence of significant quantities of halogens, complexants agents, organic components… or/and high activity limits) are incompatible, an alternative solution have to be identify. It consists of a waste pre-treatment process. For Cadarache LOR (Liquides Organiques Radioactifs) waste streams, two radioactive scintillation cocktails have to be treated. They are composed of a mix of organic liquids and water: for the first one, 19 % of organic compounds (xylene, mesitylene, diphenyloxazole, TBP…) and 86.9 % of water, and for the second one, 23 % of organic compounds (TBP…) and 77 % of water. They contain halogens (chlorine and fluorine), complexants agents (nitrate, sulphate, oxalate and formate) and have got αβγ spectra with mass activities equal to some 100 Bq/g. Therefore, tritium is also present. As a consequence, in order for storage acceptance at the ANDRA site, it is necessary to pre-treat the waste. An adequate solution seems to be a solidification process using NOCHAR polymers.
Indeed, NOCHAR polymers correspond to an important variety of products applied to the treatment of radioactive aqueous and organic liquids (solvent, oil, solvent/oil mixing …) and sludge through a mechanical and chemical solidification process. For Cadarache LOR, N910 and N960 respectively dedicated to the organic and aqueous liquids solidification are considered. With the N910, the organic waste solidification occurs in two steps. As the organic liquid travels moves through the polymer strands, the strands swell and immobilize the liquid. Then as the polymer-organic cure, over time, the polymer continues to collapse on the organic to create a permanent chemical bond. The N960 has the ability to absorb aqueous waste up to 100 times its own weight. It creates a strong mechanical bond which permanently traps the contamination imbedded in the aqueous liquids. Therefore, these two NOCHAR polymers seem to be able to constitute a suitable solidification matrix for a final acceptance in storage on ANDRA sites.
In order to validate the solidification process using NOCHAR polymers as an acceptable solution for Cadarache LOR treatment, some solidification tests realised with N910 and N960, have been carried out for different Waste/Polymer ratios. To determine the best Waste/Polymer ratio and the optimal experimental parameters, exudation tests have been made. Indeed, the process prevents leaching and it results in the absence residual free organic or aqueous liquid which is forbidden in storage by ANDRA specifications. With these results, the obtained scientific data constitute a fundamental basis of an ANDRA agreement.
As a conclusion, the aim of this study is to demonstrate that the pre-treatment by solidification using NOCHAR polymers can constitute a solution for Cadarache LOR handling and more generally, for various organic and mixed organic/aqueous waste which can not be directly acceptable at CENTRACO facility or at ANDRA storage sites. So then, this study is a solid background to demonstrate the feasibility of the waste pre-treatment by solidification with NOCHAR polymer and to encourage this process development.