Highly Efficient Electrochemical Oxide Reduction for U/TRU Recovery from LWR Fuel

Default ARPA-E Project Image

Lemont, Illinois
Project Term:
02/16/2023 - 05/15/2026

Technology Description:

Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) will research an electrochemical oxide reduction (OR) process that meets CURIE’s cost and waste metrics for a pyroprocessing facility. Electrochemical OR is a single-step process that converts used oxide fuels to metal that can be electrorefined to produce uranium/transuranic (U/TRU) alloys suitable for fabrication into advanced reactor fuels. However, current process inefficiencies result in non-uniform and incomplete conversion to metal, long process times, and large waste volumes. ANL will address these inefficiencies by research a highly efficient OR process with 97% conversion of the oxide fuel to metal by incorporating sensors to monitor oxide-to-metal conversion, using stable and efficient next-generation anode materials, and optimizing cell designs to achieve spatially uniform conversion to metal. This optimized OR process could help reduce waste volumes 10X compared with other conversion processes. ANL will also research an integrated waste disposal plan to economically dispose of pyroprocessing wastes in deep boreholes and an optimized plan for using the existing LWR UNF supply in a pyroprocessing facility to produce U/TRU alloys suitable for advanced reactor fuel fabrication.

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:
Dr. Krista Hawthorne
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Oklo, Inc.

Related Projects

Release Date: