Pyrochemical Dissolution of LWR Spent Fuel with Actinide Recovery for Advanced Reactors

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Salt Lake City, Utah
Project Term:
01/18/2023 - 01/17/2026

Technology Description:

The University of Utah will research a pyrochemical process for efficiently converting UNF to a uranium/transuranic (U/TRU) product suitable for sodium-cooled fast reactors or molten-salt fueled reactors. This process is based on two key separations steps that can occur in a single reaction vessel: dissolution of oxide UNF in molten lithium chloride (LiCl)-potassium chloride (KCl) salt and electrochemical recovery of U/TRU metal on a cathode. Overall, this technology should result in less material handling and lower space requirements than conventional pyroprocessing technology via elimination of fuel baskets, consolidation of processing units, and use of a single solvent salt (i.e., LiCl-KCl). If successful, the proposed process would open the pathway for high throughput, economical pyrochemical processing of UNF that does not generate pure plutonium streams.

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. Michael Simpson
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