18 September 2013
Wastewater is commonly treated with chemicals to destroy microbes. The chemicals remain in the treated water and are discharged to natural waters, where they may be hazardous and pose significant harm to the environment. An alternative method for decomposing the contaminants present in wastewater without the addition of any chemicals is to use ionizing radiation to break them down, using electron beams (otherwise known as e-beams). E-beams are a stream of electrons emitted by an electron accelerator and are used to treat objects for a variety of purposes.
At a side event on 18 September 2013, in the margins of the 57th IAEA General Conference, participants took an in-depth look at the innovative use of e-beam technology to break down waste and pollutants in water, thereby preventing their entry into the water cycle.
Titled ‘Innovative Technologies for Waste Water Treatment and Marine Environment Protection’ and organized jointly by the Department of Technical Cooperation (TC) and the Department of Nuclear Science and Applications (NA), the event aimed to raise Member State awareness of available technology, and to build partnerships with external research institutions, laboratories as well as industry and technology developers.
“The main goal of this gathering is to see how our activities complement each other and whether there is a good basis for cooperation in our common efforts to contribute to environmental protection” said Ana Raffo, Director for the Division of Programme and Coordination, Department of Technical Cooperation, IAEA, in her opening remarks.
The event brought together a diverse group of speakers, representing a number of institutes and organizations promoting e-beam technology, including the Radiation Technology Institute, Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI), the National Centre for Electron Beam Research (NCEBR), Texas A&M University, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Urban Water Research Center, University of California, USA, and EB-Tech.
In addition, Evelyn Swain, Environmental Specialist at Global Environmental Facility (GEF), took part in the meeting, describing the challenges posed by chemical effluents from wastewater treatment facilities and stressing the need to address wastewater treatment in an effective manner that conserves the environment. Ms Swain presented the GEF Chemicals Strategy and programme to manage and control persistent organic pollutants (POPs) as required under the Stockholm Convention. A short film by GEF entitled Mission: Planet Detox was shown, highlighting GEF’s efforts to support local communities as they work to reduce the harmful effects of chemicals in our environment.
The participants discussed the utilization of e-beam technology for wastewater treatment and explored innovations, trends and opportunities for new e-beam applications for environmental protection. In addition, two case studies, one United States – Mexico case study, another from Korea, provided insight into the topics of pilot and industrial scale facilities for e-beam treatment of toxic waste and accelerating e-beam technology commercialization.
A lively Q&A session on novel approaches to sustainable water management concluded the event, examining what else the IAEA can do to mobilize member states and scientific and technical communities in order to pursue new and innovative technologies for the management of toxic chemicals and waste.
Side event presentations
Accelerating eBeam Technology Commercialization: A US-Mexico case study. View here
E-beam Treatment of Toxic Wastes: The Experiences in Pilot and Industrial Scale Plant. View here
Overview of e-beam technology and technical cooperation applications for containment management and disposal.
GEF Chemicals Program. View here
Innovations, trends and opportunities for e-beam applications: Environmental protection. View here