INTRODUCTION

In July 1995, the Department of Energy (DOE1) asked the National Research Council (NRC) to extend the lifetime of its Committee on Electrometallurgical Techniques for DOE Spent Fuel Treatment in order to provide additional advice. After this additional activity was approved by the NRC, the committee was specifically charged with two tasks:

  • First, to carry out an ongoing evaluation of Argonne National Laboratory 's (ANL's) research and development (R&D) activity on electrometallurgical techniques for treatment of DOE spent fuel, including their specific application to Experimental Breeder Reactor II (EBR-II) spent fuel; and

  • Second, to evaluate the scientific and technological issues associated with extending this R&D program to handle plutonium, should the DOE decide that an electrometallurgical treatment option for the disposition of excess weapons plutonium is worth pursuing.

The committee's previous report2 responded to the second part of the charge, and this report turns to the first part, providing ongoing evaluation of the scientific and technological aspects of the R&D program for spent fuel treatment. 3 On March 14, 1996, the committee visited ANL, where it heard presentations from ANL staff on the status of the electrometallurgical treatment R&D program (see Appendix A). At the request of the committee, the presentations emphasized waste form preparation and characterization. In addition, Dr. James Laidler, director of the ANL Chemical Technology Division, gave a general overview of ANL activities on applications of the electrometallurgical technique.

The EBR-II fuel treatment demonstration has been delayed pending completion of an environmental assessment (EA),4 a process in which the committee has not participated. In addition, ANL has made a decision on revised amounts of driver and blanket fuel required to complete the demonstration.5 Becaue the delay in initiation of “hot” operations at ANL-W precluded review of the processing of irradiated EBR-II fuels, the committee focused on the ANL efforts to develop and test waste forms.

The committee was also advised that the electrometallurgical process may be considered for treatment of domestic and foreign research reactor fuels, which may include aluminum-clad fuels. Because of the preliminary nature of this consideration, the committee did not review the proposed modifications of the flow sheet that would be required for this application.

1  

The abbreviations used in this report are listed in Appendix E.

2  

An Evaluation of the Electrometallurgical Approach for Treatment of Excess Weapons Plutonium, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., February, 1996.

3  

Argonne National Laboratory's Nuclear Technology R&D Program: Program Plan, Argonne National Laboratory, Revised, June, 1995.

4  

DOE Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology, Draft Environmental Assessment: Electrometallurgical Treatment Research and Demonstration Project in the Fuel Conditioning Facility at Argonne National Laboratory -West,DOE/EA-1148, January 29, 1996.

5  

Appendix B of this report.



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ELECTROMETALLURGICAL TECHNIQUES FOR DOE SPENT FUEL TREATMENT: A STATUS REPORT ON ARGONNE NATIONAL LABORATORY'S R&D ACTIVITY INTRODUCTION In July 1995, the Department of Energy (DOE1) asked the National Research Council (NRC) to extend the lifetime of its Committee on Electrometallurgical Techniques for DOE Spent Fuel Treatment in order to provide additional advice. After this additional activity was approved by the NRC, the committee was specifically charged with two tasks: First, to carry out an ongoing evaluation of Argonne National Laboratory 's (ANL's) research and development (R&D) activity on electrometallurgical techniques for treatment of DOE spent fuel, including their specific application to Experimental Breeder Reactor II (EBR-II) spent fuel; and Second, to evaluate the scientific and technological issues associated with extending this R&D program to handle plutonium, should the DOE decide that an electrometallurgical treatment option for the disposition of excess weapons plutonium is worth pursuing. The committee's previous report2 responded to the second part of the charge, and this report turns to the first part, providing ongoing evaluation of the scientific and technological aspects of the R&D program for spent fuel treatment. 3 On March 14, 1996, the committee visited ANL, where it heard presentations from ANL staff on the status of the electrometallurgical treatment R&D program (see Appendix A). At the request of the committee, the presentations emphasized waste form preparation and characterization. In addition, Dr. James Laidler, director of the ANL Chemical Technology Division, gave a general overview of ANL activities on applications of the electrometallurgical technique. The EBR-II fuel treatment demonstration has been delayed pending completion of an environmental assessment (EA),4 a process in which the committee has not participated. In addition, ANL has made a decision on revised amounts of driver and blanket fuel required to complete the demonstration.5 Becaue the delay in initiation of “hot” operations at ANL-W precluded review of the processing of irradiated EBR-II fuels, the committee focused on the ANL efforts to develop and test waste forms. The committee was also advised that the electrometallurgical process may be considered for treatment of domestic and foreign research reactor fuels, which may include aluminum-clad fuels. Because of the preliminary nature of this consideration, the committee did not review the proposed modifications of the flow sheet that would be required for this application. 1   The abbreviations used in this report are listed in Appendix E. 2   An Evaluation of the Electrometallurgical Approach for Treatment of Excess Weapons Plutonium, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., February, 1996. 3   Argonne National Laboratory's Nuclear Technology R&D Program: Program Plan, Argonne National Laboratory, Revised, June, 1995. 4   DOE Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology, Draft Environmental Assessment: Electrometallurgical Treatment Research and Demonstration Project in the Fuel Conditioning Facility at Argonne National Laboratory -West,DOE/EA-1148, January 29, 1996. 5   Appendix B of this report.

OCR for page 3
ELECTROMETALLURGICAL TECHNIQUES FOR DOE SPENT FUEL TREATMENT: A STATUS REPORT ON ARGONNE NATIONAL LABORATORY'S R&D ACTIVITY This report's findings and recommendations are based on the March 1996 ANL presentations, 6 ANL “Monthly Highlights” reports7 that were provided to the committee by DOE, and other documentation that was furnished by ANL to the committee (and is cited here as appropriate). 6   The agenda for the March 14-15 committee meeting and a summary of the March 14 site visit to Argonne National Laboratory and March 15 committee meeting are included as Appendix A of this report. 7   “Electrometallurgical Treatment Program Monthly Highlights” are included as Appendix C of this report.