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Annual Report

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The AFCI program is developing technology for the transmutation of nuclear waste to address many of the long-term disposal issues. An integral part of this program is the proposed chemical separations scheme.

Nearly all issues related to risks to future generations arising from long-term disposal of such spent nuclear fuel is attributable to about 2% of its content. Such 2% is made up primarily of plutonium, neptunium, americium, and curium (the transuranic elements) and long-lived isotopes of iodine and technetium created as products from the fission process in power reactors. When transuranics are removed from discharged fuel destined for disposal, the toxic nature of the spent fuel drops below that of natural uranium ore (that was originally mined for nuclear fuel) within a period of several hundred years.

Removal of plutonium and other transuranics from material destined for geologic disposal also eliminates long-term (centuries) heat management issues within such environments. The removal of neptunium, technetium, and iodine render negligible the possibility of radioactive material penetration into the biosphere in the future. Finally, removal of plutonium negates any incentive for intrusion into repositories driven by intentional recovery of material for nuclear proliferation.

The complete process considers existing LWR spent fuel, separation processes, fuel fabrication, transmutation, low-level waste disposal (LLWD), and the reprocessing of fuel after transmutation. In a nuclear growth scenario, the introduction of advanced thermal reactor designs will almost certainly result in changes in separations system requirements that must be met with optimized systems.

Developing a systems engineering model of the overall process would be beneficial to analyzing complex interactions between proposed process changes. The model will evolve to incorporate all process steps and to improve process modules as more knowledge is gained. The improvements will be based on empirical data or from numerical models as appropriate.

An integral part of the overall chemical process is a UREX (Uranium Extraction) process. This portion of the process is currently modeled by AMUSE code, developed by ANL.


Alpha-bearing wastes; Argonne Model for Universal Solvent Extraction (AMUSE); Computer programming; Separation (Technology); Software engineering; System analysis; Systems engineering; Transuranium elements – Separation; Uranium Recovery by Extraction (UREX)

Controlled Subject

Separation (Technology); Software engineering; Transuranium elements


Chemistry | Nuclear Engineering | Oil, Gas, and Energy | Software Engineering | Systems Engineering

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507 KB




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