The industrial treatment of spent nuclear fuel is presently performed using different wet chemical processess. Alternative dry processes, using pyrochemical methods, have received some attention due to their potential advantages in terms of plant design and criticality safety, as well as radiation dose.
Recent progress in the transmutation of long-lived fission products and minor actinides has brought renewed interest in pyrochemical methods, as effective transmutation will be based on multi-recycling of the fuel with very high burn-up and short cooling times, conditions under which pyrochemical methods offer various advantages over wet processes.
Studies of pyrochemical processes have so far been carried out at laboratory level. Considerable R&D work is still required in order to upgrade these processes to the current level of industrial aqueous processing.