Chemical Engineering Worldwide
Technetium exists only in the Stars....
Stellar nuclear reactions create Technetium....It doesn't exist naturally on this earth. Yet WCA technology and equipment are helping to eliminate this nasty pollutant from a U.S. Department of Energy facility.
Since the end of the Cold War, disarming Soviet Union nuclear weapons is creating radioactive Technetium wastewater. WCA processes and decontaminates the wastewater. Ultimately, the radioactivity is isolated (for a few thousand years) in solid concrete. The Technetium contaminant is separated from the wastewater and converted into a solid form by using special absorbing and reactive metal media.
Elemental Technetium, discovered in 1937, has about 19 radioactive isotopes with atomic masses ranging from 90 to 108. Some isotopes decay rapidly. The isotope 95m_Tc has a half life of 61 days. This rapidly decaying isotope is used as a tracer in the medical diagnosis of certain human ailments. Other isotopes have a half life measured in thousand of years. The isotope 97_Tc has a half life of 2.6 million years. This is troublesome.
Technetium was the first element to be produced artificially. Searches for the element in terrestrial materials has been without success. However, Technetium has been found in the spectrum of S-, M-, and N-type stars.
WCA has performed about a dozen contracts for the D.O.E. (U.S. Department of Energy). Each one has an interesting technical, commercial and/or manufacturing story.
The Driest Part of the Planet
Without a drop of rain in 40 years, the Atacama high desert plateau in the Andes mountains in northern Chile is considered the driest part of the planet. It has the appearance similar to the surface of the moon. This area is the reserve of the major source of the worlds' copper ore.
As luck would have it, modern techniques for copper electrowinning require high volumes of ultra pure water. WCA engineers, as part of the team with several other organizations (Placer Dome, Fluor Daniel, BHP, Mineral Escondida and others) are solving these mining production challenges.
First, locate saline water in a volcanic aquifer, then pump it 60 kilometers horizontally and a mile straight up to the mountain (a considerable feat). Once at the mine, desalinate it to ultra pure water. The water system must also provide for the potable and sanitary needs of the miners.
Add "fast track" scheduling to multi-lingual design, construction and operation. Link the engineering teams from many locations throughout the world over the Internet. Computerize the operation to achieve the necessary efficiency and reliability. Convert your ocean going cargo containers to living quarters at 13,000 feet elevation.
That's what it's like at the driest part of the planet.
Today, dozens of power stations throughout the U.S. operate without discharging a single drop of wastewater, thanks to "Zero Discharge" technology developed by WCA and others. Power plants are a hot target of environmentalists (since the 1980's).
Electric power stations are a big water consumer and can be a big wastewater discharger...without "Zero Discharge" technology. WCA pioneered much of the technology for "Zero Discharge" power stations using a blend of chemical engineering, computers, inventive processes, new machinery and thousands of hours of operating experience.
Today, electric power stations can use 1/3 less water and 2/3 less chemicals without discharging wastewater. These WCA "Award Winning" designs are in use from Maine to California to Florida. At first, costs to achieve these results were considered a burden by investors. Now, improved efficiency of power generation results in profit.
According to Mr. Troy Taylor, Plant Chemist at Delano Energy (Calif.), the "Zero Discharge" equipment and computers save about $150,000 per year in cooling tower and boiler chemicals; perhaps $100,000 per year savings in acid and caustic for demineralizer regeneration. These chemicals would otherwise become discharge pollutants. In the last five years of operation, Mr. Taylor has collected and analyzed scores of data from his computers.
Now, he can predict when boiler maintenance is required before expensive failure occurs. Also, scheduled shutdown for maintenance avoids rate penalties from the grid. This saves big bucks.
"Zero Discharge" is an evolving technology with steady improvements made possible by the sharing of experience between design engineers and operating experts. WCA is dedicated to continuing as part of the team, supporting experts like Mr. Taylor in using advanced technology and operating knowledge for discovering better techniques for environmental good and for profits.
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