State-of-the-art Report on the Progress of Nuclear Fuel Cycle Chemistry

The implementation of advanced nuclear systems requires that new technologies associated with the back end of the fuel cycle are developed. The separation of minor actinides from other fuel components is one of the advanced concepts being studied to help close the nuclear fuel cycle and to improve the long-term effects on the performance of geological repositories. Separating spent fuel elements and subsequently converting them through transmutation into short-lived nuclides should considerably reduce the long-term risks associated with nuclear power generation.

R&D programmes worldwide are attempting to address such challenges, and many processes for advanced reprocessing and partitioning minor actinides are being developed. This report provides a comprehensive overview of progress on separation chemistry processes, and in particular on the technologies associated with the separation and recovery of minor actinides for recycling so as to help move towards the implementation of advanced fuel cycles. The report examines both aqueous and pyro processes, as well as the status of current and proposed technologies described according to the hierarchy of separations targeting different fuel components. The process criteria that will affect technology down-selection are also reviewed, as are non-proliferation requirements. The maturity of different reprocessing techniques are assessed using a scale based on the technology readiness level, and perspectives for future R&D are reviewed.