Page 36 - European Energy Innovation - Spring 2015 publication
P. 36
Spring 2015 European Energy Innovation


A new pathway to recycle NORM in building
materials – a COST Action initiative

By Wouter Schroeyers, chair of the European COST network ‘NORM4Building’ (TU1301), professor at the
University of Hasselt (Belgium) dealing with the radiological aspects of material flows in the non-nuclear

Since the birth of the that, depending on the origin of 5% to 7% of the worldwide CO2
Earth, very long-lived the ores and the used industrial emission. Adding alternative raw
natural occurring process, can contain enhanced materials with low embodied
radionuclides and concentrations of naturally CO2 as well as supplementary
their decay products have been occurring radioactive materials cementitious materials reduces
present in the planet’s crust. (NORM) are: the cement CO2/mass. Several
These radionuclides occur in • fly ash produced in large of the listed NORM containing
the mineral ores that we mine to residues can be used as
produce the materials that we quantities from coal burning; alternative raw materials or as
need. Upon extracting metals • phosphorous slag from thermal supplementary cementitious
from ores or burning resources materials. In the case of residues
for the production of electricity phosphorus production; with a high calorific value, they can
and heat, the naturally occurring • unprocessed slag from primary be introduced as an alternative
radionuclides are concentrated fuel where the remaining ash
in (waste) residues that are iron production; is typically incorporated in the
produced in very large quantities. • lead, copper and tin slags cement clinker.
Typical examples of residues
from primary and secondary In Europe, a substantial amount
Wouter Schroeyers measuring NORM residues. A production; of residues is currently used and
small detection portal for radiological material • phosphogypsum of the included in use cases for several
in the background phosphate industry; concrete applications and civil
• red mud of the aluminum engineering works. This not
processing industry. only offers improved material
performances and engineering
The depletion of energy properties, but also great
resources and raw materials environmental gains by saving the
demands the introduction of natural resources and lowering
sustainability in the construction the CO2 footprint per tonne of
sector and construction concrete produced. Nevertheless,
material production. In the this brings also along some major
development of new synthetic health concerns which have only
building materials, the reuse been considered on the basis
of (waste) residue streams, of their potential environmental
especially residues that are impacts (hazardous elements and
produced in large quantities, their leaching behaviour), but
becomes a necessity. This is even not on the basis of their natural
more the case if the reuse can radionuclide contents.
increase the energy efficiency
of the production process or Using NORM residues in the
can contribute to a reduction production of new types of
in CO2 emissions. The listed synthetic building materials raises
NORM containing residues have concerns among authorities,
excellent technical properties public and scientists on the
for reuse in cement, concrete or potential gamma exposure
ceramics and can bring this kind to building materials among
of added value.

Estimations suggest that cement
production is responsible for
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