Group Hexavalent Actinide Separation: A Single-Step, Proliferation Resistant Approach to Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing

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Birmingham, Alabama
Project Term:
03/01/2023 - 02/28/2026

Technology Description:

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) will research a single-step technology to recycle UNF by recovering the bulk of uranium (U) and other transuranics (TRU) from fission products. After dissolution of UNF in nitric acid, U/TRU is simultaneously separated from fission products by co-crystallizing oxidized TRU with uranyl nitrate hexahydrate. The approach is inherently proliferation resistant, as plutonium-only streams cannot be achieved without implementing additional technologies. In addition, the overall reprocessing facility footprint would be significantly smaller, secondary waste would be substantially reduced, and hazards associated with using bulk quantities of organic materials would be eliminated. UAB will also research an online monitoring strategy for this process using sensor fusion of various spectroscopic techniques. The single-cycle process researched in this project will (1) significantly reduce the volume of light-water reactor high-level radioactive waste that requires permanent disposal, (2) provide an appropriate fuel feedstock by combining U/TRU in a single product stream, (3) reduce fission product content in the product stream to <0.1%, and (4) be compatible with online monitoring technologies.

Potential Impact:

By enabling the secure and economical recycling of the nation’s inventory of LWR UNF, CURIE will have the following impacts:


Support the deployment of advanced reactor (AR) technologies by providing safe and sustainable domestic fuel stocks. Improvements in monitoring capabilities could enable more precise controls of various reprocessing stages while ensuring increased security of materials of concern.


Substantially reduce the disposal impact of the nation’s inventory of LWR UNF, decrease uranium mining requirements, and support a comprehensive national strategy to store radioactive waste safely and securely.


Complement ARPA-E’s existing nuclear energy research portfolio, further ensuring the commercial viability of innovative new ARs, and enable an additional revenue stream via valuable radionuclides recovered from UNF for diverse applications.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Jenifer Shafer
Project Contact:
Prof. Jonathan Burns
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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