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Effect of Process Variables During the Head-End Treatment of Spent Oxide Fuel

B. R. Westphal, K. J. Bateman, C. D. Morgan, J. F. Berg, P. J. Crane, D. G. Cummings, J. J. Giglio, M. W. Huntley, R. P. Lind, D. A. Sell

Nuclear Technology / Volume 162 / Number 2 / May 2008 / Pages 153-157

Technical Paper / First International Pyroprocessing Research Conference /

The development of a head-end processing step for spent oxide fuel that applies to both aqueous and pyrometallurgical technologies is being performed by the Idaho National Laboratory, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute through a joint International Nuclear Energy Research Initiative. The processing step employs high temperatures and oxidative gases to promote the oxidation of UO2 to U3O8. Potential benefits of the head-end step include the removal or reduction of fission products as well as separation of the fuel from cladding. The effects of temperature, pressure, oxidative gas, and cladding have been studied with irradiated spent oxide fuel to determine the optimum conditions for process control. Experiments with temperatures ranging from 500 to 1250°C have been performed on spent fuel using either air or oxygen gas for the oxidative reaction. Various flow rates and applications have been tested with the oxidative gases to discern the effects on the process. Tests have also been performed under vacuum conditions, following the oxidation cycle, at high temperatures to improve the removal of fission products. The effects of cladding on fission product removal have also been investigated with released fuel under vacuum and high-temperature conditions. Results from these experiments will be presented as well as operating conditions based on particle size and decladding characteristics.

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