Kurion, a startup that has developed technology that cleans up nuclear waste and is one of the most successful cleantech firms you haven’t heard of, has been acquiring more cleanup tech. On Monday the startup announced that it has acquired the assets of Impact Services (called GeoMelt), and the licenses from a company called GeoSafe (owned by Battelle), and all this intellectual property covers technology that turns nuclear waste into glass.
That process for turning waste (from nuclear and other substances) into glass is called vitrification, and it’s the widely accepted best practice for how to clean up and store nuclear waste. Kurion already owned some aspects of this technology, and Kurion’s business model is to make the nuclear clean up process more distributed, more flexible and more low cost. Traditionally vitrification has been a more centralized process.
Kurion owns another nuclear clean up tech called “ion specific media,” which is a material that basically soaks up nuclear particles in water and liquids and shrinks the materials down to a small enough size so that it can be turned into glass. Kurion used its ion specific media to remove 70 percent of the radioactivity from the waste water at the Fukushima nuclear plant after last year’s disaster.
Winning a seat at the table for helping clean up Fukushima was a huge win for Kurion. It was the only startup involved in the water cleanup process — other firms included France’s AREVA, Japan’s Toshiba and Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy — and it also dominated the cleanup process.
Four-year-old Kurion is already profitable, is based in Irvine, Calif., and is backed by Lux Capital and Firelake Capital Management.
The GeoMelt technologies were originally developed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Labs, have been used commercially since the 1990’s and have treated more than 26,000 metric tons of waste, says Kurion. The GeoMelt tech is also under consideration for use at the sizable nuclear clean up site the Hanford Tank Farm.