Enzymatic degradation of plutonium-contaminated cellulose products Page: 4 of 15
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LAAJR. 9 9 -445
Abstract # 641
Enzymatic Degradation of Plutonium -Contaminated Cellulose Products
Caryl E. Heintz, Kenneth A. Rainwater and Luther M. Swift, Texas Tech University,
Lubbock, TX and
David L. Barnes, Amarillo National Resource Center for Plutonium, Amarillo, TX and
Laura Worl and Larry Avens, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM
Enzyme solutions produced for commercial purposes unrelated to waste
management have the potential for reducing the volume of wastes in streams containing
cellulose, lipid and protein materials. For example, we have shown that cellulases used
in denim production and in detergent formulations are able to digest cellulose-containing
sorbents and other cellulose-based wastes contaminated either with crude oil or with
radionuclides. This presentation describes the use of one such enzyme preparation
(Rapidasetm) for the degradation of cotton sorbents intentionally contaminated with low
levels of plutonium. This is part of a feasibility study to determine if such treatments
have a role in reducing the volume of low level and transuranic wastes to minimize the
amount of radionuclide-contaminated waste that must be disposed of in secured storage
Waste streams from National Laboratories with historic and current missions
involving radionuclides used in the defense industry present disposal problems.
Plutonium, americium, neptunium and uranium, among other radioactive elements,
contaminate these wastes. The problems they present include the potential for radiation
poisoning since most have extremely long half lives, and the potential use for terrorist
activities. Not only must weapons-grade plutonium be guarded from improper release
from these facilities, but low level (LLW) and transuranic (TRU) wastes must be
disposed of in ways that prevent improper contact with living organisms and the
environment. Such low level and transuranic wastes include items resulting from the
production, testing, and storage (and now disassembly) of nuclear weapons. At Los
Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and other Department of Energy (DOE) facilities,
work regularly is performed in glove boxes where plutonium (Pu) and other radionuclide
residues can contaminate items within the box or on the boxes internal surfaces. Normal
maintenance of the glove boxes is done by cleaning with cheesecloth and other laboratory
wipes. Now classified as suspect wastes, these materials must be handled as transuranic
(TRU) or low-level radioactive wastes and disposed in special landfills or other
repositories. In addition, kilogram amounts of other cellulose-based materials such as
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Heintz, C.E.; Rainwater, K.A.; Swift, L.M.; Barnes, D.L.; Worl, L. & Avens, L. Enzymatic degradation of plutonium-contaminated cellulose products, article, March 1, 1999; New Mexico. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc674992/m1/4/: accessed November 12, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.