DOE awards $38 million to advance used fuel recycling

October 26, 2022, 6:38AMRadwaste Solutions

The Department of Energy is providing $38 million in funding for a dozen projects aimed at developing technologies to advance spent nuclear fuel reprocessing, reduce the volume of high-level waste requiring permanent disposal, and provide domestic advanced reactor fuel stocks. The projects are being led by universities, private companies, and national laboratories.

“For America to further harness the safe, reliable, clean energy produced at nuclear facilities across the country, the Biden-Harris Administration and DOE recognize the importance of developing practical uses for America’s used nuclear fuel,” said secretary of energy Jennifer Granholm. “Recycling nuclear waste for clean energy generation can significantly reduce the amount of spent fuel at nuclear sites and increase economic stability for the communities leading this important work.”

The projects are being funded through the Converting UNF Radioisotopes Into Energy (CURIE) Program within the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E). The CURIE Program seeks to improve the nuclear fuel cycle by developing separations technologies, material accountancy, and online monitoring technologies, as well as designs for a reprocessing facility to produce new fuel for advanced reactors.

The details: According to the DOE, teams have been selected to develop separation technologies with improved proliferation resistance and safeguards technologies for fuel recycling facilities, and perform system design studies to support fuel recycling.

Argonne National Laboratory will develop a highly efficient process that converts 97 percent of spent oxide fuel to metal using stable next-generation anode materials (award amount, $4,900,000).

ANL will also develop, produce, and test a suite of compact rotating packed-bed contactors for spent nuclear fuel reprocessing (award amount, $1,520,000).

Curio will develop and demonstrate the company’s NuCycle spent fuel recycling process at the laboratory scale (award amount, $5,000,000).

Electric Power Research Institute will develop a recycling tool intended to address the coupled challenges of nuclear fuel life-cycle management and advanced reactor fuel supply (award amount, $2,796,545).

GE Research will develop a safeguards solution for aqueous reprocessing facilities (award amount, $6,449,997).

Idaho National Laboratory will design, fabricate, and test anode materials for electrochemically reducing actinide and fission product oxides in spent fuel (award amount, $2,659,677).

Mainstream Engineering will develop a vacuum swing separation technology to separate and capture volatile radionuclides, which should lower life-cycle capital and operating costs and minimize waste that must be stored (award amount, $1,580,774).

NuVision Engineering will design, build, and commission an integrated material accountancy test platform that will predict postprocess nuclear material accountancy to within 1 percent uncertainty in an aqueous reprocessing facility (award amount, $4,715,163).

University of Alabama–Birmingham will develop a single-step process that recycles spent fuel by recovering the bulk of uranium and other transuranics from the fuel after dissolution in nitric acid (award amount, $1,844,998).

University of Colorado–Boulder will advance technology capable of high-accuracy, substantially faster measurements of complex spent fuel mixtures (award amount, $1,994,663).

University of North Texas will develop a self-powered, wireless sensor for long-term, real-time monitoring of high-temperature molten salt density and level to enable accurate safeguarding and monitoring of electrochemical processing of spent fuel (award amount, $2,711,342).

University of Utah will develop a pyrochemical process for efficiently converting spent nuclear fuel into a fuel feedstock suitable for sodium-cooled fast reactors or molten salt–fueled reactors (award amount, $1,454,074).

Further descriptions of the selected CURIE projects can be found here.

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