A decontamination technique for beryllium has been awarded the United States Department of Energy's annual Environmental, Security, Safety and Health Achievement Award.
The award recognizes National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and Safety and Ecology Corporation (SEC) for using DeconGel® as a beryllium decontamination technique for mitigating and abating hazardous particulate.
CBI Polymers' DeconGel® is a proprietary hydrogel that is used to decontaminate surfaces of radioactive isotopes and other hazardous chemicals and toxins.
Beryllium and beryllium compounds are classified as Category 1 carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
SEC used DeconGel to decontaminate 48,500 square feet of surface area, including office material, and valuable items such as laboratory equipment and historical artifacts.
Approximately 250 tonnes of beryllium-contaminated equipment were removed, which resulted in the reuse of 27 laboratories and three high bay areas.
Compared to traditional methods, DeconGel® reduced labor costs by a reported 70 per cent due to decreased labor requirements. Reductions in the volume of waste generated were also reported.
The Department of Energy is using the non-toxic, peel away hydrogel for remediation of sites with radiological, nuclear, and hazardous chemical substances such as beryllium.
To date, traditional beryllium decontamination methods include the wet/wipe method, high detergent application and scrubbing technique, organic solvent application and removal, particulate vacuums, and sticky cloths.
But these methods can be expensive and time consuming, while posing a safety hazard due to prolonged worker exposure and generation of airborne particles.
"We have received requests from organizations to keep an 'at the ready' stockpile of DeconGel® handy for emergency situations," says Larry Stack, president and chief operating officer of CBI Polymers.
CBI Polymers is a subsidiary of Cellular Bioengineering, Inc., with a focus on developing easy-to-use and environmentally-friendly peelable polymers for radiological, nuclear, chemical, and biological decontamination.
Stack says that DeconGel® works on both smooth and rough hard surfaces, even with complex three dimensional structures, and can generally reduce contamination to below safe levels with one single application.
He says that the product is also handy for hazardous materials (HAZMAT) or Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) first responder units concerned about immediate clean up after a major incident from accidents or acts of terrorism such as a dirty bomb.
"Normal chemical cleaning solutions, power washers, and wipes simply will not be able to remove radioactive isotopes from sidewalks, buildings and streets in the case of an RDD or dirty bomb incident, not to mention the huge amount of contaminated waste such methods generate," Stack says.
The Hawaii Technology Development Venture (HTDV) / Office of Naval Research (ONR) funded the development of DeconGel®.
Additional R&D funding was secured through the USAF Force Protection Battlelab, the National Defense Center of Excellence for Research in Ocean Sciences (CEROS) under its contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the Department of Energy.
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