the optimal solution for alkali metal remediation

CEI's Superheated Steam Sodium Removal Technology

What is CEI-SHS™?

CEI’s superheated steam (CEI-SHS™) process combines vessel and sodium preheating, oxygen exclusion with inert gas, and a controlled supply of superheated steam.  In this process the term “superheated steam” refers to a mixture of steam and inert gas at a temperature higher than the steam saturation temperature.  Pressures however remain low – only a few inches of water column in the target vessel. 

Our extensive alkali metal experience has shown that combining the CEI-SHS™ process with a well-controlled and well-monitored system is the optimal means for treatment of alkali metal wastes — from thin films to bulk quantities and from small tubing to large storage vessels.  Complex vessel configurations and specialty items like cold traps also can be easily managed.

The CEI-SHS™ Method

Creative Engineers, Inc. (CEI) was formed in 1996 as a chemical process engineering company specializing in alkali metals.  The founders of Creative Engineers, Richard VanLieshout and Kevin Berry, had extensive experience with potassium, sodium, NaK (sodium potassium alloy), and potassium superoxide because of their work at Callery Chemical Company (now Ascensus) where they were responsible for the engineering and operations of all alkali metal processing areas. Callery Chemical Company (now Ascensus) is the world’s largest manufacturer of these products (NaK, potassium, and potassium superoxide).

During the 1980s and 1990s, Mr. VanLieshout and Mr. Berry routinely had requirements for cleaning of equipment, piping, and tanks containing residual and bulk sodium, potassium, and NaK.   Standardized methods and procedures were developed to safely allow conversion of these difficult-to-handle metals into metal hydroxides and to simplify the cleaning for equipment re-use and for equipment disposal.  These methods and procedures were perfected and implemented on a routine basis as normal operations at Callery Chemical Company.

Mr. VanLieshout and Mr. Berry took this experience and systematized their experience, technology, and project specific process knowledge for remediation of alkali materials in “real world operational settings” into what is now known as CEI-SHS™.  

Seeing the opportunity to bring this specialized alkali metal engineering to other organizations in industry and government, Creative Engineers, Inc. was formed. CEI’s engineers have over 50 years combined experience working with NaK, sodium, potassium, and potassium superoxide as process engineers, project engineers, manufacturing managers and engineering managers. 

The result of the evolution is a standardized approach to alkali metal remediation.

A History of CEI-SHS™ Success

  • Enrico Fermi (EF-1), Breeder Reactor, Primary and Secondary Systems Cleanout (many evolutions of components) 1997-2008
  • FFTF Hanford Nuclear Facility (multiple projects)
  • EBR II Primary Sodium Storage Tank 2010
  • Oak Ridge Explosion NaK Cleanup and Removal 2000
  • NASA, Marshall Space Flight Center (NaK, Multiple)
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory SNAP Reactor 2004
  • SEFOR Secondary 2011 and Primary Loop 2017
  • SunEdison – (Sodium and sodium hydride systems, multiple) 2016
  • Dow Chemical Company (NaK storage tank and piping)
  • ASARCO (sodium storage tank, filters, piping) 2005
  • Australia Magnesium Corporation (sodium tanks and piping) 2005
  • Kemet Blue Powder – Several NaK projects – Tantalum manufacturing facility
  • GE Matoon – light bulb manufacturing facility, potassium remediation 2018
  • Timet Witton UK – Titanium Remelt facility, NaK system cleaning and rebuild (2018 and 2019)
  • Timet – Henderson – Titanium R&D Facility, NaK system cleaning and rebuild (multiple projects between 2006 and 2020)
  • Cabot Corp – Boyertown PA – Tantalum facility, NaK, and Sodium deactivation. 2004

Details of these projects are available for discussion. Contact R. VanLieshout at rich@ceina.pro for more information.

Where can CEI-SHS™ be used?

The CEI-SHS™ process is applicable to any system containing sodium, potassium, or NaK (sodium-potassium alloy).  The process has been applied to all the below listed types of equipment

  • Nuclear reactors
  • Chemical reactors
  • Cold traps and other types of filters
  • Storage tanks
  • Inert gas purifiers
  • Process tanks and pressure vessels
  • Heat exchangers
  • Pumps
  • Piping systems

What is required?

The CEI-SHS™ process is applicable to any system containing sodium, potassium, or NaK (sodium-potassium alloy).  The process has been applied to all the below listed types of equipment

  • Inert gas (argon or nitrogen typically). This is not normally a problem as facilities handling sodium normally have an installed storage and distribution system.
  • Portable tanks and trucks have also been used. A capacity of 300 slpm is a reasonable planning capacity during actual CEI-SHS™ operations.
  • A source of steam. Many chemical plants have a steam source; most nuclear sites do not. It is a simple matter to provide steam from an electric, propane or natural gas-fired packaged boiler. CEI often uses a small boiler with an output of 150 kg/hr of steam. Two such boilers have been employed where additional steam is desirable.
  • A source of water for dilution of resultant sodium hydroxide and easy removal from the components, and (if required) for steam generation.
  • A source of approximately 20 KW of electricity to provide the superheat for the steam and inert gas.
  • Scrubber to remove the sodium hydroxide “smoke” or particulate that is generated.  Several types of scrubber may be used.  HEPA filtration of the final effluent can be accommodated.

Space requirements are minimal, but vary by project.  For the “typical” project, less than 40 square meters is required.

How CEI Applies the CEI-SHS™ Process to Your Site

Proper technique selection is generally driven by safety considerations. CEI evaluates each situation using our proven process for the best approach and the unique hazards involved. Before work commences on site, each system will be evaluated with regard to:

  • How well it can be drained and identification of residual pools.
  • Disposition of removed sodium, determination if it also need to be treated.
  • Whether or not the tank or system can be cleaned in place after detailed study of the equipment to be cleaned.
  • Identification of the advantages of removing the equipment for cleaning versus cleaning in situ.
  • Cleaning technique to be applied (CEI-SHS™, carbonation, and WVN will be evaluated).
  • Whether or not the system will be re-used or scrapped, as this may influence the acceptable operating conditions.
  • Personnel safety and radiological requirements.

Through more than 30 years of regular hands-on experience, CEI’s staff has come to believe that the CEI-SHS™ process is best. This endorsement of one particular process is not taken lightly, because the clean-up projects involve CEI’s personnel – and often owners – actually running the process. They are personally at risk and go to extreme lengths to prepare systems and procedures to ensure the safety of their crews, the customer’s equipment, and themselves.

Additional Information

Additional information can be found at:
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