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Fluoride Technology for Transmutation


Study of Gas- and Molten-Fluoride Separation and Transmutation for Accelerator Based Plutonium Disposition and Nuclear Waste Treatment

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-RWT/Radioactive Waste Treatment/Environment

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
ITEF (ITEP), Russia, Moscow

Supporting institutes

  • Federal State Unitary Enterprise Research and Development Institute of Power Engineering named after N.A.Dollezhal, Russia, Moscow\nVNIIKhT (Chemical Technology), Russia, Moscow\nAll-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Non-Organic Materials named after A. Bochvar, Russia, Moscow\nAll-Russian Research and Designing Institute of Complex Energetic Technology / VNIPIET (Sosnovy Bor Branch), Russia, St Petersburg\nVNIIEF, Russia, N. Novgorod reg., Sarov


  • European Centre for Theoretical Studies in Nuclear Physics and Related Areas (ECT), Italy, Trento\nRoyal Institute of Technology, Sweden, Stockholm\nLos-Alamos National Laboratory, USA, NM, Los-Alamos

Project summary

It is suggested that a study be made of the technical feasibility of a technology that could ensure an effective and environmentally sound disposal of most of nuclear waste: weapon-grade plutonium and defense nuclear waste; plutonium and minor actinides from spent nuclear fuel, including accumulated fission products; waste containing breakdown fuel and fuel containing masses, similar to those of the Chernobyl reactor.

This manifold function can be ensured by a combination of an accelerator driven molten-fluoride reactor and a fluoride technology of separations, including a gas-fluoride separation of uranium before transmutation. Both a molten-fluoride subcritical reactor and pyrochemical reprocessing, based on fluorides, will be developed and designed as the backbone of a transmutation plant.

The novelty and great advantages of the suggested approach to nuclear waste treatment consist in the fact that it offers developing an across-the-cycle technology of separations and transmutation. Alternative molten-fluoride bases to carry transmuted materials along with the transmutation products will be studied. Within the time requested for the project data will be secured to substantiate such a technology as provides a complete cycle of nuclear waste treatment from the initial material preparation to the immobilization of the final products, which are stable and short-lived nuclides to be continuously removed from the reactor-transmutator. It is planned to study new approaches to the reprocessing, including physical methods and temperature cycles (crystallization-dissolution) with use of centrifuge methods of continuous separation of solid and liquid systems.

The following key results are expected to be obtained from the project:

- a conceptual design of a target-blanket on molten-fluoride fuel;
- assessments of nuclear and technological safety of the target-blanket design;
- an environmentally sound across-the-cycle fluoride technology of nuclear waste treatment, which consists of three principal components: a gas-fluoride technology of separation and pre-starting procedures for transmutation of transuraniums and long-lived fission products, on-line reprocessing of the molten-salt blanket fuel, formation of immobilized transmutation products;
- a comparison of the efficiency and safety of separations and transmutation systems on alternative molten-salt fuel bases;
- technical and economic assessments of an accelerator driven fluoride plant for Pu disposition and nuclear waste treatment.

Potential role of foreign collaborators

Contacts between the institutes-participants of the proposed project were maintained due to the activity of the institutes in Project #17 granted by the ISTC from November 1994 to October 1996. The Project was engaged in the Accelerator Driven Transmutation Technology (ADTT) internationally lead by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) of the USA. At the meetings and workshops of Project #17, held in Moscow, Arzamas-16 and St.-Petersburg of Russia as well as in Los Alamos of the USA, several reviews of the Russian institutes' work were made jointly by the Russian participants and the LANL. Additionally, the Swedish Spallation Group (mainly, Royal Institute of Technology and Uppsala University) as the backbone of the Organizing Committee of the Second ADTT Conference in Kalmar (June 2-7, 1996) provided a good possibility to review the current status of the work in Russia. The logistics and the background of the ADTT studies in the collaborating laboratories were discussed.

It was recognized that due to progress in the Russian institutes' work devoted to both target-blanket design and fuel chemistry these studies could be conducted successfully in Russia with the help of an extension of the ISTC fund. As for the ADTT International Cooperative Development, LANL presented a plan that is a possible means of moving forward an international collaboration of ADTT. It is based on the following theses:

1. No single nation is willing so far to step up to the challenge of developing the ADTT alone although many nations are capable of doing it alone.
2. Excellent science and engineering staff in Russia have demonstrated their deep interest in the ADTT development by their work on ISTC Project #17.
3. Western nations wish to provide funding for employment of these scientists on non-weapons projects.
4. Pacific Rim nations could also be the source of significant funding after their ADTT interests have become better known and better integrated into the U.S., European Union, Eastern Europe, and Russian collaboration.
5. Russia and Eastern Europe appear to be better situated to handle the target-blanket-separations component of ADTT.
6. U.S. and the European Union seem better situated to deal with the accelerator component.
7. The ISTC, which has already provided funding for work in Russia, might extend or enhance its support of ADTT.

In this context the LANL group expressed its interest in that the ADTT International Program could additionally include other (than Russian) work in the former SU and work in Eastern Europe. Following the above theses, the described proposal to the ISTC "A Study of Gas- and Molten-Fluoride Separation and Transmutation for Accelerator Based Plutonium Disposition and Nuclear Waste Treatment" was developed. Additionally, after coordination meetings taken place in Moscow, Kiev and Kharkov in March - April of 1996 representatives of Kharkov Physics and Engineering Institute and Institute for General and Inorganic Chemistry of Ukraine expressed their interest in submitting a proposal, tentatively titled "Research and Development of Fuel and Construction Materials for Accelerator Driven Nuclear Waste Transmutation in Molten-Salt Blankets", to the Science and Technology Center of Ukraine (STCU). This project description is currently completed and emphasizes the complementary nature of the proposal relative to the ISTC proposal of the Russian institutes.

Bearing in mind that the activities of the Russian and Ukrainian ADTT teams are to be performed by them jointly and within the international ADTT context it was suggested that the Ukrainian and the Russian Institutes co-ordinate their activities and programs through a formal agreement between the ISTC and the STCU. This agreement of both centers would appear practical with a view to achieving maximum efficiency and economic use of the available resources - both human and material.