WASHINGTON DC- The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $38 million for a dozen projects that will reduce the impacts of disposing of spent nuclear fuel (UNF) from light water reactors. The projects, led by universities, private companies and national laboratories, were selected to develop technologies to advance NUF recycling, reduce the volume of high-level waste requiring permanent disposal and provide secure national advanced reactor fuel stocks. Nuclear power generates nearly one-fifth of America’s electricity and accounts for half of all domestic clean energy production. While used nuclear fuel, sometimes called spent nuclear fuel, is created during the process of nuclear power generation, the clean energy generated from this fuel would be enough to power more than 70 million homes. Additionally, UNF can be recycled to make new fuels and by-products that support the deployment of nuclear energy and advance President Biden’s goals to offset climate change and the nation’s dependence on renewable energies. fossil fuels through widespread use of clean energy.
“For America to further harness the clean, safe, and reliable energy produced at nuclear facilities across the country, the Biden-Harris administration and the DOE recognize the importance of developing practical uses for America’s spent nuclear fuel.” , said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Recycling nuclear waste for clean energy production can significantly reduce the amount of spent fuel at nuclear sites and increase the economic stability of the communities leading this important work.”
When discharging a nuclear reactor, UNF is initially stored in steel-lined concrete pools surrounded by water. It is then removed from the pools and placed in dry storage drums with protective shielding. Most of the country’s used fuel is safely stored at more than 70 reactor sites across the country. Projects funded by the UNF Conversion of Radioisotopes to Energy (CURIE) program will enable the safe and economical recycling of the country’s UNF and will significantly reduce the volume, heat load and radiotoxicity of waste requiring permanent disposal. These efforts will also provide valuable and sustainable feedstock for advanced reactors.
Led by the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the following teams have been selected to develop separation technologies with improved proliferation resistance and back-up technologies for carbon recycling facilities. fuel, and perform system design studies to support fuel recycling:
- Argonne National Laboratory (Lemont, Illinois) will develop a highly efficient process that converts 97% of UNF oxide fuel to metal using next-generation stable anode materials. (Amount of scholarship: $4,900,000)
- Argonne National Laboratory (Lemont, Illinois) will develop, produce and test a suite of compact rotating fixed bed contactors for the reprocessing of used nuclear fuel. (Amount of scholarship: $1,520,000)
- Curio (Washington, DC) will develop and demonstrate the steps of the team’s UNF recycling process, known as NuCycle, at laboratory scale. (Amount of scholarship: $5,000,000)
- EPRI (Charlotte, North Carolina) will develop a recycling tool to address the coupled challenges of nuclear fuel life cycle management and advanced reactor fuel supply. (Amount of scholarship: $2,796,545)
- GE Research (Niskayuna, NY) will develop a revolutionary protection solution for aqueous reprocessing facilities. (Amount of scholarship: $6,449,997)
- Idaho National Laboratory (Idaho Falls, ID) will design, fabricate and test anode materials to electrochemically reduce actinide and fission product oxides in the UNF. (Amount of scholarship: $2,659,677)
- Consumer Engineering (Rockledge, FL) will develop vacuum modulated separation technology to separate and capture volatile radionuclides, which should reduce capital and life cycle operating costs and minimize the waste that needs to be stored. (Amount of scholarship: $1,580,774)
- NuVision Engineering (Mooresville, North Carolina) will design, build and commission an integrated materials accountancy test platform that will predict post-processing nuclear material accountancy with 1% uncertainty in an aqueous reprocessing facility. (Amount of scholarship: $4,715,163)
- University of Alabama at Birmingham (Birmingham, AL) will develop a one-step process that recycles UNF by recovering most of the uranium and other transuranics from UNF after dissolution in nitric acid. (Amount of scholarship: $1,844,998)
- University of Colorado, Boulder (Boulder, CO) will advance technology capable of high precision and significantly faster measurements of complex UNF mixtures. (Amount of scholarship: $1,994,663)
- University of North Texas (Denton, TX) will develop a self-powered wireless sensor for long-term, real-time monitoring of high-temperature molten salt density and level to enable accurate backup and monitoring of the electrochemical treatment of UNF. (Amount of scholarship: $2,711,342)
- University of Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah) will develop a pyrochemical process to efficiently convert UNF into a fuel feed suitable for sodium-cooled fast reactors or reactors fed by molten salts. (Amount of scholarship: $1,454,074)
Learn more about the projects selected under the CURIE program as well as complementary programs within ARPA-E that support the deployment of nuclear energy, including MEITNER, GEMINA and ONWARDS.