Nuclear waste cleanup startup Kurion (which I once called the most successful greentech startup you haven’t heard of) says it’s responsible for removing 70 percent of the radioactivity from the waste water at the Fukushima nuclear plant after last year’s disaster. Kurion says, since it shipped its technology to Japanese utility TEPCO last summer, the Kurion system has processed 36 million gallons of contaminated waste water and removed 9.4 million curies of cesium (see graphic below).
Kurion has developed a material it calls “ion specific media,” which basically soaks up nuclear particles and then shrinks the materials down to a small enough size so that it can be turned into glass, which is a process called vitrification. It’s the standard process used by the nuclear industry to encapsulate waste, but Kurion has created a more modular process, so the cleanup technology can be quickly shipped to a contaminated site, then the waste can be safely shipped elsewhere for storage.
Kurion was one of a group of companies selected by the beleaguered utility to clean the seawater that had been pumped into the reactors to cool them down. Other companies that made up the cleanup crew included France’s AREVA, Japan’s Toshiba and Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy; Kurion was the only startup included. Kurion is a profitable four-year-old, 15-person, startup based in Irvine, Calif., which was backed by Lux Capital and Firelake Capital Management.