Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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China Opens First Wastewater Treatment That Uses Radiation

China opened its first industrial wastewater treatment plant that uses radiation technology with electron beams.

(Photo : Getty Images) China opened its first industrial wastewater treatment plant that uses radiation technology with electron beams.

China launched on Monday its first facility that utilizes radiation technology using electron beams to treat industrial wastewater, paving way for radiation technology in the leading textile producer in the world.

"Despite advances in conventional wastewater treatment technology in recent years, radiation remains the only technology that can treat the most stubborn colorants in wastewater," Sunil Sabharwal, IAEA's Radiation Processing Specialist, said, noting that such technology exists in developed countries when developing countries need it the most.

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The new plant is located in Jinhua city, about 300 kilometers south of Shanghai. It has a daily treating capacity of 1,500 cubic meters of wastewater, which is about a sixth of the plant's output.

Jianlong Wang, deputy director of the Nuclear and Energy Technology Institute at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said that if this wastewater treatment project is successful, they will eventually open other facilities across the country. also noted that before the radiation technology using electron beams was chosen, Chinese researchers have carried out extensive studies to compare radiation tech with other possible options. Scientists concluded that electron beam technology is the more ecological and more effective method.

In wastewater treatment, bacteria digest and break down pollutants; however, wastewater in textile dyeing has molecules that cannot be treated with bacteria. But these big molecules can be broken into smaller ones through irradiating the effluent using electron beams. These small particles can then be treated and removed via normal biological processes.

Other than treating wastewater, electron beam technology is also found to treat residues from pharmaceutical plants that produce antibiotics. The technology could effectively decompose the residual antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes. A demonstration plant at an industrial scale is planned for later this year, Wang said. 

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