The U.S. Department of Energy has selected projects that will work to reduce the impacts of light water reactor used nuclear fuel (UNF) disposal. These projects funded under the Converting UNF Radioisotopes Into Energy (CURIE) program, led by the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), are intended to advance UNF recycling, reduce the volume of high-level waste requiring permanent disposal, and provide safe domestic advanced reactor fuel stocks.

Projects funded through the CURIE program will enable secure, economical recycling of the UNF now stored at more than 70 reactor sites across the U.S. and substantially reduce its volume, heat load andSource: ARPA-ESource: ARPA-E radiotoxicity while providing a valuable and sustainable fuel feedstock for advanced reactors.

These participants have been selected to develop separation technologies with improved proliferation resistance and safeguards technologies for fuel recycling facilities, and perform system design studies to support fuel recycling:

  • U.S. Argonne National Laboratory will develop a highly efficient process that converts 97% of UNF oxide fuel to metal using stable next-generation anode materials. (Award amount: $4,900,000)
  • U.S. Argonne National Laboratory will also develop, produce and test a suite of compact rotating packed bed contactors for used nuclear fuel reprocessing. (Award amount: $1,520,000)
  • Curio (Washington, D.C.) will develop and demonstrate steps of the team’s UNF recycling process —known as NuCycle at the laboratory scale. (Award amount: $5,000,000)
  • EPRI (Charlotte, North Carolina) will develop a recycling tool intended to address the coupled challenges of nuclear fuel life-cycle management and advanced reactor fuel supply. (Award amount: $2,796,545)
  • GE Research (Niskayuna, New York) will develop a revolutionary safeguards solution for aqueous reprocessing facilities. (Award amount: $6,449,997)
  • U.S. Idaho National Laboratory (Idaho Falls, Idaho) will design, fabricate and test anode materials for electrochemically reducing actinide and fission product oxides in UNF. (Award amount: $2,659,677)
  • Mainstream Engineering (Rockledge, Florida) will develop a vacuum swing separation technology to separate and capture volatile radionuclides, which should lower life cycle capital and operating costs and minimize waste that must be stored. (Award amount: $1,580,774)
  • NuVision Engineering (Mooresville, North Carolina) will design, build and commission an integrated material accountancy test platform that will predict post-process nuclear material accountancy to within 1% uncertainty in an aqueous reprocessing facility. (Award amount: $4,715,163)
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham will develop a single-step process that recycles UNF by recovering the bulk of uranium and other transuranics from UNF after dissolution in nitric acid. (Award amount: $1,844,998)
  • University of Colorado, Boulder will advance technology capable of high-accuracy, substantially faster measurements of complex UNF mixtures. (Award amount: $1,994,663)
  • University of North Texas (Denton, Texas) will develop a self-powered, wireless sensor for long-term, real-time monitoring of high-temperature molten salt density and level to enable accurate safeguarding and monitoring of electrochemical processing of UNF. (Award amount: $2,711,342)
  • University of Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah) will develop a pyrochemical process for efficiently converting UNF into a fuel feedstock suitable for sodium-cooled fast reactors or molten-salt-fueled reactors. (Award amount: $1,454,074)
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