China is pursuing the use of radiation technology as part of its wastewater treatment methods to further efforts to manage industrial waste in an environmentally friendly way.
“Treating the water that comes from our industries is very important, so we have been doing this for a long time. Now we want to become better at making our water cleaner,” said Jianlong Wang, Vice-President of the Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology (INET) at Tsinghua University in Beijing. “We are receiving a lot of support from the IAEA to use electron beam based technologies to help us get rid of various water pollutants that the other methods cannot do on their own.”
Electron beam accelerators are machines that produce beams of electron radiation that can be used for cleaning wastewater, among other things (see box below). This was one of the topics discussed at the 2015 IAEA Scientific Forum.
Wastewater is water that has been adversely affected by its use in human activities, such as for industrial or agricultural purposes.
Industrial wastewater can contain a variety of chemicals, including pesticides, organic material, chemicals and dyes. These can be harmful and, in some cases, very toxic. Before releasing this water or reusing it, it must be treated to minimize the amount of these containments to prevent them from spreading to surface and groundwater resources.
For decades, China has been cleaning its wastewater using conventional treatment methods that involve physical processes and chemicals. To meet its tightening policies on energy saving and environmental conservation, China is now working to expand the use of radiation technology to remove harmful containments like, among others, cyanide, oils and greases, and dyes, from the leftover water, said Shijun He, Associate Professor at INET.
Conventional processes are difficult, inefficient and expensive to use alone, added Sunil Sabharwal, radiation processing specialist at the IAEA.
“Electron beam accelerators can be a very efficient and cost effective way to treat wastewater,” said Sabharwal. Different types of contaminants need different treatment methods, and combining radiation technology with other methods can eliminate a spectrum of contaminants and more effectively break down organic matter, while leaving no secondary pollution and requiring very few or no additional chemicals, he explained.
China is taking a multipronged approach to wastewater treatment, collaborating with a variety of private and public sector partners, including the IAEA, to develop expertise in radiation technology in combination with other methods.