Orano, SHINE to cooperate on used fuel recycling plant

March 1, 2024, 7:01AMRadwaste Solutions
Orano CEO Nicolas Maes (left) and SHINE Technologies founder and CEO Greg Piefer shake hands after agreeing to cooperate on a pilot used fuel recycling facility. (Photo: Orano)

Orano and SHINE Technologies have agreed to cooperate in the development of a pilot plant capable of recycling used nuclear fuel from light water reactors on a commercial scale. In announcing the signing of a memorandum of understanding on Thursday, the companies said the selection of a site for the pilot U.S. facility is expected by the end of this year.

The recycled fuel could be made into new fuel for advanced and existing reactor designs while also extracting certain critical isotopes for medical and industrial uses. SHINE currently produces lutetium-177 for cancer treatment and is building a nuclear facility, the Chrysalis, at its headquarters in Janesville, Wis., to produce the medical radioisotope molybdenum-99.

The buildup: According to SHINE and Orano, the agreement is a first step in a broader coalition of companies focused on developing a national used nuclear fuel recycling industry. The MOU follows the recent announcement of a collaborative report by SHINE and Deep Isolation that found such a recycling facility would reduce the total volume of waste going to a deep geologic repository by greater than 90 percent.

The pilot plant concept will validate commercial-scale aqueous recycling with integrated nonproliferation measures, the companies said. The system is based on SHINE’s separation technology and Orano’s methods in operation at its La Hague facility in France, where more than 40,000 tons of used nuclear fuel have been reprocessed.

They said it: “This MOU aligns two innovative companies in the single pursuit of recycling 100 metric tons a year of used nuclear fuel into a valuable resource,” said Nicolas Maes, chief executive officer of Orano. “For this initiative with SHINE, we bring more than 55 years of experience transporting and recycling used nuclear fuel in France and managing used fuel in the U.S.”

Greg Piefer, founder and CEO of SHINE Technologies, added, “Our goal is to stand up an operational pilot facility by the early 2030s. While this is challenging, our track record with the Chrysalis facility shows that we know how to navigate the complex design, regulatory, and build aspects of 10 CFR Part 50 nuclear facilities and do so cost effectively. The lessons learned in the execution of that project are directly applicable to waste recycling, and uniquely position us for timely delivery on this important national priority.”

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