Two-Step Chloride Volatility Process for Reprocessing Used Nuclear Fuel from Advanced Reactors
The next generation of advanced nuclear reactors (ARs) is currently being developed to enhance the safety, reduce the cost, and increase the efficiency of nuclear power generation, which is important to meeting greenhouse gas (GHG) emission goals. Challenges associated with disposal pathways of waste, such as used nuclear fuel (UNF), however, threaten AR development and deployment. ONWARDS seeks to develop and demonstrate breakthrough technologies that will facilitate a 10x reduction in AR waste volume generation or repository footprint. In addition, ONWARDS aims to advance development of high-performance AR waste forms while maintaining exemplary safeguards standards and global back-end costs in the accepted range of $1/megawatt-hour.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
Brigham Young University (BYU) will apply two-step chloride volatility (TSCV) to co-extract uranium (U) and transuranics (TRU) in a solventless, gas-solid separation scheme to reduce waste volumes and repository footprint by 10x. The BYU team will reduce risks and uncertainty of the TSCV process by quantifying the volatility of U/TRU chlorides in simulated UNF mixtures, optimizing process parameters for U/TRU extraction, and demonstrating TSCV up to a one-kilogram batch size. TSCV eliminates high-level liquid waste from reprocessing UNF in solvents, and recycles hydrogen chloride gas and chlorine gas within the process. BYU’s process is proliferation resistant because no pure fissile material streams are produced. Initial performance calculations indicate that waste streams will contain <0.1% by total weight of actinides.
By identifying and addressing challenges at the back end of the fuel cycle before the deployment of future AR technologies, ONWARDS will:
Support the growth of advanced nuclear energy with safe and sustainable domestic fuel stocks.
Play a vital role in significantly reducing GHG emissions, proactively mitigate the disposal impact of AR UNF with integrated non-proliferation safeguards, and provide transformative solutions to improve the management and disposal of radioactive waste and UNF.
Complement ARPA-E’s existing nuclear energy research portfolio, such as the MEITNER and GEMINA programs in AR R&D, further ensuring the commercial viability of innovative new ARs.