Processing of metal fuel by electrorefining at a pilot plant scale

R. Carpentiero, Alessandro Dodaro, I. Sardo, C. Fedeli, G. De Angelis, M. Rossi

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

Pyrometallurgical processes are of special interest in the nuclear metal fuel cycle for recovery of long-lived radionuclides. This electrochemical operation allows to separate uranium and other actinides from fission products. The key phase is the realization of a pilot plant with project details and components (as electrorefiner scale, cathode geometry and rotation rate, electrolyte system, cell voltage and current density, materials, crucible, refrigerating kit, etc..). The pyrometallurgical nuclear recycle is a multi-step process where actinides, after anodic dissolution in the salt electrolyte, are electrodeposited at a solid cathode, while the less noble elements, alkali metals, rare earths, are distributed in the molten salt electrolyte. The noble metals on their own are not oxidized and are recovered by distillation of the liquid bismuth. The cathode deposits are then recovered and used for new fuel production. The process is carried out in a tight cell with controlled inert atmosphere at low oxygen and humidity level. The operating temperature is about 500°C. The deposition phase will be sampled and subjected to chemical and morphological analyses (by XRF, SEM/EDX methods). The scope of the present work, actually at the planning stage, is the presentation of the conceptual study followed by the selection of the best project and related experimental conditions. Processing will be carried out in an iron electrorefining vessel containing molten LiCl-KCl eutectic over a pool of bismuth. Simulated spent fuel, in small metal pieces, will be introduced into the electrolyte in a basket and electrorefined. Almost pure uranium is deposited at the solid cathode, while a mix of uranium, plutonium and other fission products are collected at a liquid bismuth cathode. Non nuclear experiments will be carried out with simulating elements as lanthanides in order to check the functionality of the new apparatus. After the definition of the whole facility, the activity will be devoted to the Uranium-Thorium/fission products separation, new important trend in the transmutation reactors. The obtained results will supply data to develop a mathematical model for the feasibility investigation of the process on industrial scale. Copyright © 2005 by ASME.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes
Event10th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management, ICEM'05 - , United Kingdom
Duration: 1 Jan 2005 → …

Conference

Conference10th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management, ICEM'05
CountryUnited Kingdom
Period1/1/05 → …

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)

Cite this

Carpentiero, R., Dodaro, A., Sardo, I., Fedeli, C., De Angelis, G., & Rossi, M. (2005). Processing of metal fuel by electrorefining at a pilot plant scale. Paper presented at 10th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management, ICEM'05, United Kingdom.