Discovery Converts Dangerous
Radioactive Waste into Clean
An Israeli firm has taken the laws of science and turned them into
a useful invention for mankind – a reactor that converts radioactive,
hazardous and municipal waste into inert byproducts such as glass
and clean energy.
of conservation of energy and mass say that energy or mass
cannot be created or destroyed – only change form. With the
help of Russian scientists, Israeli firm Environmental Energy
Resources (EER), has taken the laws of science and turned
them into a useful invention for mankind – a reactor that converts
radioactive, hazardous and municipal waste into inert byproducts
such as glass and clean energy.
of radioactive waste is a global one, and getting increasingly
worse. All countries in the industrialized world are waking
up to the need for safer hazardous waste disposal methods.
the beginning, nobody believed that we could do it," says
Itschak Shrem, chairman of investment company Shrem, Fudim
and Keiner representing EER at a press briefing announcing
the innovation last week in Tel Aviv.
an invoker of small miracles through the founding of one of
Israel’s most lucrative venture capital funds – Polaris (now
Pitango) – points to a chunk of black, lava-like rock sitting
on the table in front of everyone’s coffee cups.
cautiously eye Shrem as he assures them that the shiny dark
material, emitted from EER’s pilot waste treatment reactor
near Karmiel in the north, is safe to touch.
also makes a good recyclable material for building and paving
roads," he assures them. Earlier, Shrem told ISRAEL21c
that EER can take low-radioactive, medical and municipal solid
waste and produce from it clean energy that "can be used
for just about anything."
Using a system
called plasma gasification melting technology (PGM) developed
by scientists from Russia’s Kurchatov Institute research center,
the Radon Institute in Russia, and Israel’s Technion Institute
– EER combines high temperatures and low-radioactive energy
to transform waste.
go up to 7,000 degrees centigrade and end at 1,400 centigrade," says
Moshe Stern, founder and president of the Ramat Gan-based company.
that EER’s waste disposal rector does not harm the environment
and leaves no surface water, groundwater, or soil pollution
in its wake. The EER reactor combines three processes into
one solution: it takes plasma torches to break down the waste;
carbon leftovers are gasified and inorganic components are
converted to solid waste. The remaining vitrified material
is inert and can be cast into molds to produce tiles, blocks
or plates for the construction industry.
facility (and its other installation in the Ukraine) has a
capacity to convert 500 to 1,000 kilograms of waste per hour.
Other industry solutions, the company claims, can only treat
as much as 50 kilograms per hour and are much more costly.
to the journal Research Studies (Business Communications, Inc.),
‘The production of nuclear weapons/power in the US has left
a 50-year legacy of unprecedented volumes of radioactive waste
and contaminated subsurface media and structures… Nuclear
waste generators include the national laboratories, industrial
research facilities, educational and medical institutions,
electrical power utilities, medical diagnostics facilities,
and various manufacturing processes.’
In the US
alone, Research Studies predicts that this year’s market for
radioactive waste-management technologies in America will cap
EER was founded
in 2000 and has maintained a low profile until revealing its
reactor last week.
spent our time on R&D and building up the site in Israel
which we started constructing in 2003. We realized that nobody
was going to believe us unless we started doing the process
physically. They always said it sounded too good to be true,
so we had to prove it to them," said Shrem.
Back in 2004,
the Ukrainian government put out a tender searching for a solution
that would provide safer hazardous waste disposal methods.
At that time, the country was looking for a way to treat its
low-radioactive waste zones resulting from the Chernobyl explosion.
EER sent in their proposal, and their technology won the bid.
to Stern, the former Soviet Union was the first to build nuclear
plants. Over the years they have generated "huge amounts
of low-radioactive waste. They came to us looking for a solution," he
nuclear meltdown on April 26, 1986 – was beyond a doubt the
largest civil nuclear explosion in the world and one still
linked to thousands of deaths. More than 20 years after the
explosion, tens of kilometers around the reactor is still highly
radioactive; and some 30,000 radioactive homes remain buried
along with household appliances, food and clothing, explained
European community is afraid of what is happening there," notes
Stern, warning that it is time for the clean up to begin, even
if it means making only a small dent in the massive pile. "The
low-radioactive waste is slowly contaminating the water and
will continue to do so over the 300 years it takes to break
new conventions have been set by The Basel Convention on the
Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and
their Disposal, first world countries are no longer permitted
to traffic their hazardous waste to third world nations – forcing
Western countries to drum up immediate and responsible solutions.
With a strict
eye over its operations by Israel’s Ministry of Environmental
Protection, EER revealed its proof-of-concept to Israeli and
foreign dignitaries in Aeblin, near Karmiel last week, showing
how it can take mountains of municipal waste and reduce it
to a pile of black rubble.
are not burning. This is the key word," Shrem said. "When
you burn you produce dioxin. Instead, we vacuum out the oxygen
to prevent combustion."
purifies the gas and with it operates turbines to generate
electricity. EER produces energy – 70% of which goes back to
power the reactor with a 30% excess which can be sold.
effect, we are combining two of the most exciting markets in
the US – the environment and clean energy," says Stern, "We
also reduce the carbon footprint."
for treating and burying low-radioactive nuclear waste currently
stands at about $30,000 per ton. The EER process will cost
$3,000 per ton and produce only a 1% per volume solid byproduct.
In the US,
EER is working to treat low-radioactive liquid waste and recently
contracted with Energy Solutions, the largest American company
in the field with 75% of the US market.
the financial forecasts, EER is certainly giving a fresh meaning
to the expression – one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.
But in EER’s case, ones man’s hazardous waste may very well
be EER’s goldmine.