Originally posted on Gizmodo by Andrew Tarantola.
Cleanup efforts around the tsunami-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant are expected to require decades—up to fifty years, in fact. However, if a new radiation decontamination technology from Toshiba and IHI pans out, that date will come much, much sooner.
The SARRY-Aqua (Simplified Active water Retrieve and Recovery sYstem) is a trailer-mounted machine the size of an international shipping container—approximately 20 feet long. It's designed deploy on-site at reservoirs, pools, or ponds and to remove radioactive cesium from water.
Here's a local news report about the trailer:
Contaminated water is pumped into the system, where it cycles past a specialized crystalline absorbent. This absorbent binds to the cesium molecules as well as iron ions in the water. This effectively magnetizes the cesium, allowing it to be easily removed using magnets. The cesium is then stored on-board the trailer for transport to a disposal or storage facility.
The SARRY-Aqua is highly efficient. It can reduce the concentration of cesium from 500 becquerels per kilogram to 10 Bq/kg—that's 20 times less than the Japanese Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry currently limits it to 200Bq/kg. The Ministry has reportedly been working to lower that threshold to the 10Bq/kg level. It can process a ton of water every hour and carries enough absorbent to clean 200 tons of water in a go.
Toshiba and IHI also contend that the SARRY system is capable of removing as much as 97 percent of cesium from contaminated soils as well. Toshiba stated that the SARRY is currently able to process 1.7 tons of radioactive soil daily, though that figure could increase 100-fold in future iterations.