Carbolite Gero has designed a pair of MTT furnaces for extracting carbon-14 and fixed tritium. The equipment is being used by the Nuclear Graphite Research Group (NGRG) at the University of Manchester to develop new nuclear waste disposal procedures.
Nuclear reactors typically contain at least 2,000 metric tons of nuclear graphite in large blocks. If the UK's current nuclear reactors operate to their proposed shutdown dates, approximately 100,000 tonnes of nuclear grade graphite will require disposal.
The research project aims to reduce the volume of this material by gasification. The furnaces will determine, at laboratory scale, the optimum specifications for the procedure, including the dimensions of the material to be processed and the temperatures, time and oxygen concentrations required.
During the tests, cubes of nuclear-grade graphite are size-reduced into particulate form before being placed into ceramic boats and heated in the furnaces. While at elevated temperatures, oxygen is passed through the furnace, leading to oxidation of the graphite and the production of CO and CO2. These gaseous releases can then be monitored through mass spectroscopy. Both Carbolite Gero benchtop furnaces have a 20-segment programmable temperature controller for sample-specific combustion protocols, as well as sophisticated data storage and communications capabilities.