Non-neutron Transmutation of Used Nuclear Fuel

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OPEN 2021
Lemont, Illinois
Project Term:
04/29/2022 - 04/28/2025

Critical Need:

The U.S. has more than 86,000 metric tons of used nuclear fuel (UNF) to date and generates approximately 2,000 metric tons of UNF per year from commercial light-water reactors (LWRs). Currently, this UNF is stored either in LWR spent fuel pools or in interim dry cask storage, but it could ideally be recycled to recover transuranics to fuel potential future advanced reactors. Such a closed fuel cycle strategy would significantly improve uranium resource utilization and reduce the volume of high-level waste requiring disposal in a geologic repository. The remaining long-lived fission products (LLFPs) would still require long-term geologic storage; however, an approach to destroying LLFPs is crucial for reducing the amount of UNF requiring geologic disposal.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and other national laboratories and universities will develop a transformational technology for LLFP transmutation using energetic photons and protons. For instance, long-lived isotope I-129 (half-life of 15.7 million years) can be transmuted to short-lived isotope I-128 (half-life of 25 minutes). A high transmutation performance can be achieved by multiple transmutations in the arrangement of the LLFP target surrounded by an LLFP blanket. ANL’s proposed LLFP transmutation technology could substantially reduce the disposal impacts of the recovered radioactive waste from UNF by eliminating the need for a geologic-time-scale repository in which nuclear waste must be interred for several hundred thousand to one million years.

Potential Impact:

The proposed LLFP transmutation technology could substantially reduce disposal impacts of nuclear waste.


The technology would reduce the disposal impact of nuclear waste by eliminating the need to store nuclear wastes for several hundred thousand to one million years.


The proposed technology can contribute to expanding a commercially proven dispatchable zero-carbon nuclear energy to the future clean energy market.


Eliminating the need for a geologic-time-scale repository could facilitate the building and operation of a disposal repository and, consequently, save federal payments to utilities for failing to dispose of the waste.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Robert Ledoux
Project Contact:
Dr. Taek Kim
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Brookhaven National Laboratory
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Idaho National Laboratory

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