Report author Mark Lynas and RePlanet’s Joel Scott-Halkes stand next to a canister of spent nuclear fuel at the Sizewell plant in the United Kingdom. (Photo: RePlanet)
A new report from the environmental advocacy group RePlanet makes the case for recycling used nuclear fuel for use in advanced power reactors. According to the report, What a Waste: How fast-fission power can provide clean energy from nuclear waste, by using current inventories of used fuel and depleted uranium stocks in Europe and the United Kingdom, fast breeder reactors could generate between 600 and 1,000 years of carbon-free electricity for the entire European Union.
SHINE’s isotope production building, called the Chrysalis, under construction in October 2022.
In a former farm field just outside the historic town of Janesville in south-central Wisconsin, a large concrete-and-steel building is taking shape. Dubbed the Chrysalis, the building will eventually house eight accelerator-based neutron generators, which start-up company SHINE Technologies will use to produce molybdenum-99. As the precursor to the medical radioisotope technetium-99m, Mo-99 is used in tens of millions of diagnostic procedures every year, primarily as a radioactive tracer.
At the heart of the Chrysalis will be the high-flux neutron generators, being supplied by SHINE’s sister company, Phoenix. The compact accelerators use a deuterium-tritium fusion process to produce neutrons, which in turn induce a subcritical fission reaction in an aqueous low-enriched uranium target (19.75 percent uranium-235) to produce Mo-99.
An aerial view of ORNL’s main campus. (Photo: ORNL)
The Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) announced the three recipients of its fourth and final round of 2022 vouchers on October 10. The vouchers were awarded to Curio Solutions, which is developing a spent fuel recycling process, and to two companies that are separately investigating advanced reactor siting—Elementl Power and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The funds for each award will go directly to Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
The DOE and a contractor recently succeeded in disposing of Oak Ridge’s low-activity U-233, but not before recovering Th-229 from the material.
A vial containing Th-299 extracted from uranyl nitrate.
This past October, the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) and its contractor Isotek successfully completed processing and disposing the low-dose inventory of uranium-233 stored at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), ending a two-year effort that has eliminated a portion of the site’s legacy nuclear material and provided rare nuclear isotopes for next-generation cancer treatment research.
The cover of the May 1977 issue of Nuclear News (left), an image of the story discussing Carter's decision to cancel the breeder reactor program (center) and the cover of the June 1977 Nuclear News (right).
The ANS Fuel Cycle and Waste Management Division will present a webinar today at noon EST (the recording will be available via the webinar archive to all ANS members) featuring an international panel of experts on nuclear waste reprocessing. The panel will explore the idea of separating certain radionuclides from waste using recycling technology that enables pure materials to be used for other purposes.
An artist's rendition of Oklo’s Aurora powerhouse. (Image: Gensler)
California-based Oklo has received a $2 million cost-share award from the Department of Energy for the commercialization of advanced fuel recycling capabilities by using electrorefining technology. Oklo is matching $1 million in funds and is partnering with the DOE and Argonne National Laboratory on this public-private partnership, which is intended to help reduce fuel costs for advanced reactor designs while reducing waste by turning used fuel into advanced reactor fuel.
This figure, included in the ONWARDS funding opportunity announcement, shows how ARPA-E R&D programs address different stages of advanced reactor development. (Figure: ARPA-E)
The Department of Energy has announced up to $40 million in funding for a new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program to conduct research and development into technologies for reprocessing and ultimately disposing of used nuclear fuel. The program, “Optimizing Nuclear Waste and Advanced Reactor Disposal Systems” (ONWARDS), announced on May 19, targets both open (once-through) and closed (reprocessing) fuel cycles to reduce the amount of waste produced from advanced reactors tenfold when compared to light water reactors.