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Surviving in the nuclear age

A small Irvine startup is demonstrating how science and technology can change the world.

by brandon russellPublished: June 01, 2012

When the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in March 2011, the employees at Irvine-based Kurion knew that the worst had yet to come. As Mother Nature’s destructive power ravaged the island nation, a series of ensuing equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns and releases of radioactive materials led to an ecological disaster in the northern Fukushima prefecture.
   
But rather than stand by, Kurion, a 15-person team specializing in nuclear waste management, immediately began working to assist with the cleanup effort at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant – an initiative that continues today and is expected to take 40 years. So far, Kurion’s technology has processed more than 36 million gallons of contaminated wastewater.
   
“The Kurion team [is] honored to be part of the cleanup at Fukushima and help Tokyo Electric Power Company during the crisis,” says Gaëtan Bonhomme, Fukushima project manager. “[This] experience will be one of the highlights of our careers and is made possible by an education in the sciences.”
   
It’s more than a year later, and Kurion’s efforts haven’t let up one bit. The company is also taking every opportunity it can to pass its knowledge on to the scientific community at large.
   
During the USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., this past April, Kurion hosted an interactive exhibit demonstrating its groundbreaking Ion Specific Media (ISM) and Modular Vitrification System (MVS) which, according to the company, isolates waste from the environment and stabilizes it for safe, secure and permanent disposal.
   
“As a startup seeking to solve the toughest remaining technical challenge in nuclear waste management, we need to attract the brightest minds to the sciences,” says John Raymont, Kurion founder and CEO. “At the USA Science & Engineering Festival, Kurion [joined] a number of great engineering and science companies to show students that the sciences are an important path to make a real difference in the world.”