Nuclear Energy pp 153-173 | Cite as

Nuclear Fuel, Reprocessing of



The objective of this entry is to give a basic overview of the technology elements behind nuclear fuel reprocessing. It should serve as a starting point for more detailed study with the aid of the Bibliography section to obtain more technical details on this subject. Several more process concepts have been proposed, tested, and demonstrated other than those listed in this entry. For the sake of conciseness, only two fundamentally different technologies have been described here – aqueous and pyrochemical fuel reprocessing. In the case of pyrochemical fuel reprocessing, focus has been placed on the LiCl-KCl electrorefining technology developed originally at Argonne National Laboratory. The overall scope of nuclear fuel reprocessing technology is too broad to cover in this entry.


Nuclear Fuel Fission Product Spend Fuel Spend Nuclear Fuel Waste Form 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



All elements including and beyond actininium (Z > 89) in the periodic table. In spent fuel, the major actinides of interest are uranium, plutonium, neptunium, americium, and curium.

Cathode processor

A high-temperature vacuum distillation furnace used to separate salt from metallic actinides deposited on an electrorefiner cathode.

Centrifugal contactors

Liquid–liquid extraction equipment used for aqueous solvent extraction that consists of a spinning rotor to intensely mix the different phases.

Ceramic waste

The glass-bonded sodalite matrix used to encapsulate waste salt from electrorefiner operation.


French process for coextracting uranium and plutonium using extraction methods similar to PUREX.


An electrochemical system used to separate actinides from spent fuel using a molten salt electrolyte.

Experimental Breeder Reactor-II

A sodium-cooled, fast test reactor operational at Argonne National Laboratory-West from 1963 to 1994.

Geologic repository

A permanent nuclear waste disposal site located deep within a geological formation.

Metal waste

The stainless steel–zirconium matrix used to encapsulate cladding hulls and noble metals left in anode baskets after U electrorefining is completed.


Liquid–liquid extraction equipment used for aqueous solvent extraction requiring a relatively large footprint.

Minor actinides

Actinide elements other than U and Pu. In spent fuel, the primary minor actinides of concern are Np, Am, and Cm.

Noble metals

Elements found in spent nuclear fuel that have chloride forms that are thermodynamically less stable than uranium chloride.

Pulsed columns

Liquid–liquid extraction equipment used for aqueous solvent extraction involving a single column consisting of trays of perforated plates to promote interphase mass transport.


Nuclear fuel treatment technology that uses electrochemical reactors with molten salt electrolytes to separate actinides from fission products.


Nuclear reprocessing technology that separates actinides from the spent fuel via liquid–liquid extraction involving acidic aqueous and organic liquid phases.

Spent fuel

Nuclear fuel that has gone through at least one irradiation cycle in a nuclear reactor. It contains a mixture of actinides and fission products.

Solvent extraction

A separations method for extracting species from a liquid phase. In this entry, it refers to a process for removing uranium from spent fuel that utilizes dissolution in acid followed by liquid–liquid extraction between aqueous and organic liquid phases.


A variant of the PUREX process that separates uranium from spent fuel without recovering pure plutonium


A v-shaped vessel that is designed to efficiently blend two or more different kinds of powders with or without applied heat.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fuel Cycle Science and Technology DivisionIdaho National LaboratoryIdaho FallsUSA

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