repository emplacement of these materials. The removal of the actinide elements from the waste means that only the fission products must be disposed in a repository, thereby gaining a reduction in waste volume. A third incentive for electrometallurgical treatment is the use of a low-cost, broadly-applicable method that can be implemented at each site storing significant quantities of spent fuel. By using a common approach at each site, and utilizing existing facilities to the greatest extent practical, the costs for disposing of the vast majority of the DOE spent fuel inventory can be minimized.


Argonne National Laboratory proposes to complete the development of the electrometallurgical treatment technology for application to selected DOE spent nuclear fuel types. The proposed program is directed toward a timely demonstration of the feasibility of application of the electrometallurgical treatment technology to the treatment of DOE spent fuels. Priority will be given to those fuels amenable to electrometallurgical treatment that (1) are chemically reactive or physically unstable and hence unsuited for direct repository disposal, or (2) are in a form that would make qualification for repository disposal prohibitively expensive. Examples of the former are metallic fuels and hydride fuels. Included in this group is the fuel from the Hanford N-Reactor (2,100 MTHM) and single-pass reactors (3.4 MTHM), from Fermi-1 (38.1 MTHM), and from EBR-II (48.4 MTHM). The second high-priority group is made up of FFTF mixed oxide fuel and failed fuel from the TMI-2 reactor and from test reactors such as PBF and LOFT. The TMI-2 core rubble, as an illustration, is packaged in 342 canisters bearing material of disparate composition; qualification of this material for disposal in a licensed repository would be a costly proposition. Emphasis will also be placed on development of a compatible electrometallurgical technique for treatment of Hanford storage basin sludge, so that the processing of Hanford storage canisters can be comprehensive.

Experimental facilities for carrying out the process chemistry development necessary to prove the feasibility of DOE spent fuel treatment are in place at the Argonne-Illinois site. Nearly-completed large-scale demonstrations of oxide fuel treatment will provide the basic information needed pertinent to DOE oxide fuels, and existing facilities can be used for confirmation of process chemistry for treatment of metallic fuels, hydride fuels, and other DOE spent fuel types. The Fuel Cycle Facility (FCF) at the Argonne-Idaho site will be available for demonstration of the treatment of actual DOE spent fuel types. Once that demonstration has been completed, a basis will exist for a decision to implement an electrometallurgical treatment capability at each of the DOE sites presently storing spent fuel, for on-site treatment of the particular fuel types in storage at a scale adequate to complete preparation for geological disposal in a reasonable period of time.

The proposed program is directed toward development of the electrometallurgical technology for treatment of “at risk” DOE spent nuclear fuels and demonstration of this technology at a scale that will provide a reasonable basis for a decision on the path forward for treating the appropriate fuels in the DOE spent fuel inventory. The program is organized into five major task areas: (1) Treatment of Metallic Spent Fuels; (2) Recovery and Treatment of Canister and Storage Basin Sludge; (3) Treatment of Oxide Spent Fuels; (4) Waste Treatment Processes; and (5) Waste Form Production and Qualification.

Treatment of Metallic Spent Fuels. This task is directed toward the electrometallurgical treatment of spent nuclear fuel from N-Reactor and the Hanford single-pass reactors. The ongoing EBR

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement