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Pyroprocessing of Light Water Reactor Spent Fuels Based on an Electrochemical Reduction Technology

Hirokazu Ohta, Tadashi Inoue, Yoshiharu Sakamura, Kensuke Kinoshita

Nuclear Technology

Volume 150 / Number 2 / May 2005 / Pages 153-161


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A concept of pyroprocessing light water reactor (LWR) spent fuels based on an electrochemical reduction technology is proposed, and the material balance of the processing of mixed oxide (MOX) or high-burnup uranium oxide (UO2) spent fuel is evaluated. Furthermore, a burnup analysis for metal fuel fast breeder reactors (FBRs) is conducted on low-decontamination materials recovered by pyroprocessing. In the case of processing MOX spent fuel (40 GWd/t), UO2 is separately collected for ~60 wt% of the spent fuel in advance of the electrochemical reduction step, and the product recovered through the rare earth (RE) removal step, which has the composition uranium:plutonium:minor actinides:fission products (FPs) = 76.4:18.4:1.7:3.5, can be applied as an ingredient of FBR metal fuel without a further decontamination process. On the other hand, the electroreduced alloy of high-burnup UO2 spent fuel (48 GWd/t) requires further decontamination of residual FPs by an additional process such as electrorefining even if RE FPs are removed from the alloy because the recovered plutonium (Pu) is accompanied by almost the same amount of FPs in addition to RE. However, the amount of treated materials in the electrorefining step is reduced to ~10 wt% of the total spent fuel owing to the prior UO2 recovery step. These results reveal that the application of electrochemical reduction technology to LWR spent oxide fuel is a promising concept for providing FBR metal fuel by a rationalized process.

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