The commercial nuclear fuel cycle includes all operations that are required to generate electricity from nuclear reactions including mining and processing of ore, fabrication of fuel, and disposition of waste. In order to close the fuel cycle a number of technologies have been developed to treat used nuclear fuel so that fissionable components can be reprocessed and recycled in fresh fuel. The most mature reprocessing technologies are based on either solvent extraction or electrochemistry to achieve the desired separations. These separations processes target select components in the fuel for recovery, purification, and eventual reuse. Several approaches have been proposed with selection ultimately based on: the type of fuel to be treated, the type of reactor to which the product(s) will be sent, waste disposition, and economics. Advanced processes currently under development would allow the recovery of different components in used fuel to enable transmutation of long-lived isotopes and placement of fission products in superior waste-disposal forms. This paper discusses the technologies under development to support different fuel cycles including the recent work at Argonne National Laboratory to support development of processes for the treatment of used nuclear fuel, with a focus on separations.
The submitted manuscript has been created by the UChicago Argonne, LLC as Operator of Argonne National Laboratory (“Argonne”) under Contract No. DE-AC0Z-06CH11357 with the U.S. Department of Energy. The U.S. Government retains for itself, and others acting on its behalf, a paid-up, nonexclusive, irrevocable worldwide license in said article to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute copies to the public, and perform publicly and display publicly, by or on behalf of the Government.
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