Cesium treatment of radioactive waste in Belgium

Duferco Group’s core activities are in the energy, steel and shipping businesses. In September 2011, during the normal operations at Duferco La Louvière steel plant in Belgium, a source of radiation, cesium, accidentally entered the furnace, causing the metal dust to become contaminated and radioactive. To treat this source of contamination, Fortum provided Duferco with 16 CsTreat® columns which are NURES® technology specifically designed to separate the radioactive cesium. Fortum also consulted Duferco in commissioning of the columns. CsTreat® usage in Duferco’s steel plant differs from the typical use of NURES® technology that is mainly utilized in nuclear waste decontamination. However, this project proves that the technology can also be used for other purposes. 

Initiating event

On Tuesday 13th of September 2011, FANC (Federal Agency for Nuclear Control of Belgium) was informed of indication of radioactive material coming from Duferco La Louvière steel plant. The source of the contamination was determined to be inadvertent introduction of cesium-137 in the electric furnace of the steel plant. 

The radioactive material was quickly identified and the 600 tons of metal dust including cesium was separated for decontamination. 350 tons of the dust had activity level of over 10 Bq/g, 150 tons was contaminated between 1 and 10 Bq/g, and the last 100 tons had activity level of less than 1 Bq/g. Regardless of the specific level of activity, all dust was stored in a safe way and the actions at Duferco La Louvière plant were halted until the decontamination of the material had been completed. This process can be achieved with Fortum’s NURES® technology, and specifically CsTreat® columns which are used to decontaminate cesium traces. 

Ultimate solution for the decade old issue

The process of treating the radioactive waste from the incident is ongoing and Fortum’s CsTreat® is showing exceptional results. CsTreat® is not just an intermediate solution for waste management but a final solution which can bring the problem to an end in the coming years. After the decontamination process is completed, the used columns will be further processed. 


NURES® technology purifies liquid radioactive waste to a fraction of the original waste volume. The technology was originally developed for the cesium removal process at the Loviisa NPP. Fortum’s NURES® technology is based on patented, 100% inorganic and highly selective ion exchange materials. NURES® treatment results in a liquid free from nuclides and radioactive NURES® material. 

Fortum’s NURES® treatment plants are especially suitable for treating challenging contaminated liquids:

  • Low Operating cost and high volume reduction factor. 
  • Effective Selective filtration of radioactive liquid waste.
  • Mobile, automated and flexible system engineering.

Core of the NURES® technology is four different ion exchangers:


Based on hexacyanoferrate

Removes universally Cs isotopes

Operating pH 1-13


Based on modified titanium oxide

Primarily removes Sr isotopes, works also for Pu and Zn

Operating pH >7


Based on modified titanium oxide

Primarily removes Co isotopes, works also for corrosion products and transuraniums

Operating pH 4-8


Based on zirconium oxide

Primarily removes antimony oxyanions, works for other oxyanions (e.g., iodine species)

Operating pH <8

CsTreat® has been used at several nuclear sites including the ALPS treatment system in Fukushima, Japan. In Bradwell, UK, Magnox cladding of nuclear fuel was dissolved and the resulting magnesium solution was decontaminated using CsTreat® in 2013-2017.

Martin Lerche

Sales Manager, NURES®
Tel: +358414584918
martin [dot] lerche [at] fortum [dot] com

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