I received a link from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to a fascinating video about their recent efforts to develop CoSecTM, a new resin technology that is more effective at capturing cobalt-60. Most of the radiation doses that nuclear workers receive come from this single isotope.
One possible cost savings aspect of this technology that the video did not mention is the potential to alter a regulatory assumption that using cobalt based materials in nuclear plant primary systems should be avoided at all costs.
Cobalt is an extremely valuable alloying material that is widely used in bearings and other applications where surface hardness and wear resistance is important. I can personally testify – without any details at this point due to non disclosure agreements (NDAs) – that engineering design efforts to eliminate cobalt from primary components are very expensive. They add a significant level of developmental risk and the resulting products are generally inferior in all other measures of effectiveness other than the fact that they do not have any cobalt-59 that could get activated.
If changing the resin used in reactor coolant purification systems can do just as good a job of reducing the amount of CO-60 in the primary coolant as avoiding the use of CO-59 in components that are exposed to primary coolant, it would seem to me that it is a substantially lower cost method of achieving the same desired result.