Savannah River Nuclear Solutions starts used fuel campaign

17 December 2014

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) has started a multi-year campaign to process aluminum-clad used nuclear fuel stored at the Savannah River Site (SRS).

This used nuclear fuel consists of uranium, aluminum, fission products and actinides from both foreign and domestic research reactors. It is safely stored in L Basin in wet storage. Used nuclear fuel in H Canyon will undergo a chemical process that will separate the uranium and down blend the material into low enriched uranium, a form no longer usable in nuclear weapons. The end-product will be available for use in commercial power reactors, such as those operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority to generate electricity.

The plutonium and fission products are transferred to the high level-waste system where they are ultimately made into a glass waste form at the Defense Waste Processing Facility at SRS.

"For years, H Canyon's primary mission was to separate uranium from used nuclear fuel," said Bill Clifton, SRNS senior technical advisor. "Now, L Basin is beginning to near capacity, so it became necessary for us to start processing used nuclear fuel again."

SRNS is authorized to disposition about 1000 bundles of such used nuclear fuel and up to 200 cores of High Flux Isotope Reactor used nuclear fuel in accordance with the Amended Record of Decision signed March 29, 2013. Processing of the HFIR cores is scheduled to begin in 2016.

"This mission will keep the Canyon operational for several years," said Allen Gunter, SR senior technical advisor.

H Canyon is the only large scale, remotely operated chemical separations plant operating in the USA, Clifton said. He added: "We are taking this used nuclear fuel and turning it into a product to be used to create clean energy. The uranium is recovered and processed into a form that cannot be used for nuclear weapons, and this mission can only be completed here at SRS."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News