A Preliminary Assessment of the Promise of Continued R&D into an Electrometallurgical Approach for Treating DOE Spent Fuel *

In September 1994, the Department of Energy (DOE) requested that the National Research Council undertake an evaluation of the Argonne National Laboratory's (ANL's) proposed electrometallurgical processing techniques as a potential approach for treating DOE spent nuclear fuel. A succinct description of DOE's spent fuel holdings and ANL's rationale for proposing an electrometallurgical approach may be found on page 1 of the ANL proposal, which is included as Appendix 1.

The DOE's request led to the formation of the Committee on Electrometallurgical Techniques for DOE Spent Fuel Treatment, which was charged with carrying out a fast-track study of electrometallurgical techniques as potential technologies for the treatment of DOE spent fuel. Specifically, the charge consists of two tasks:

  1. Hold a first meeting to receive briefings from representatives of the DOE and ANL, additional experts identified by the committee, and representatives of other relevant activities of the National Research Council and National Academy of Sciences, and then prepare an interim report to address the question, “Do electrometallurgical techniques represent a potentially viable technology for DOE spent fuel treatment that warrants further research and development?”

  2. Study in more depth the advantages and disadvantages of continued research and development of electrometallurgical processing as a candidate technology for disposition of DOE spent fuel, specifically addressing the issues of technical feasibility, cost-effectiveness, suitability of the metallic waste form for long-term storage or geologic disposal, and nonproliferation implications, and write a report on the committee's assessments.

This interim report responds to the first task.

For the purposes of this interim report, the committee interpreted the phrase “potentially viable technology” in its limited sense, to refer to technology for which the basic science is reasonably understood, the laboratory work to date is generally promising, and the anticipated problems of scale-up and eventual maintenance do not appear to be technically insurmountable. For this interim report, the committee was charged with assessing the technical merit of the proposed R&D in the near term. This report does not


NOTE: This appendix is a reprinting of the main text of the committee 's interim report, A Preliminary Assessment of the Promise of Continued R&D into an Electrometallurgical Approach for Treating DOE Spent Fuel (National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 1995); also included is Argonne National Laboratory's draft “Proposal for Development of Electrometallurgical Technology for Treatment of DOE Spent Nuclear Fuel.”

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