September 3, 2021

Closed Fuel Cycle Waste Treatment Strategy


This study is aimed at evaluating the existing waste management approaches for nuclear fuel cycle facilities in comparison to the objectives of implementing an advanced fuel cycle in the U.S. under current legal, regulatory, and logistical constructs. The study begins with the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) Integrated Waste Management Strategy (IWMS) as a general strategy and associated Waste Treatment Baseline Study (WTBS). The tenets of the IWMS are equally valid to the current waste management study. However, the flowsheet details have changed significantly from those considered under GNEP. In addition, significant additional waste management technology development has occurred since the GNEP waste management studies were performed. This study updates the information found in the WTBS, summarizes the results of more recent technology development efforts, and describes waste management approaches as they apply to both a nominal case study and near-term target reprocessing flowsheets. Many of the waste management technologies discussed also apply to other potential flowsheets that involve reprocessing. The report summarizes the waste arising from aqueous reprocessing of a typical light-water reactor (LWR) fuel to separate actinides for use in fabricating metal sodium fast reactor (SFR) fuel and from electrochemical reprocessing of the metal SFR fuel to separate actinides for recycle back into the SFR in the form of metal fuel. The primary streams considered and the recommended waste forms include: • Tritium separated from either a low volume gas stream or a high volume water stream. The recommended waste form is low-water cement in high integrity containers (HICs). • Iodine-129 separated from off-gas streams in aqueous processing. There are a range of potentially suitable waste forms. As a reference case, a glass composite material (GCM) formed by the encapsulation of the silver Mordenite (AgZ) getter material in a low-temperature glass is assumed. A number of alternatives with distinct advantages are also considered including a fused silica waste form with encapsulated nano-sized AgI crystals. • Carbon-14 separated from LWR fuel treatment off-gases and immobilized as a CaCO3 in a cement waste form. • Krypton-85 separated from LWR and SFR fuel treatment off-gases and stored as a compressed gas. • An aqueous reprocessing high-level waste (HLW) raffinate waste which is immobilized by the vitrification process in one of three forms: a single phase borosilicate glass, a borosilicate based glass ceramic, or a multi-phased crystalline synthetic rock (Synroc). • An undissolved solids (UDS) fraction from aqueous reprocessing of LWR fuel that is either included in the borosilicate HLW glass or is immobilized in the form of a metal alloy in the case of glass ceramics or Synroc. • Zirconium-based LWR fuel cladding hulls and stainless steel (SS) fuel assembly hardware that are washed and super-compacted for disposal or as an alternative with high promise the purification and reuse (or disposal as low-level waste, LLW) of Zr by reactive gas separations. • Electrochemical process salt HLW which is incorporated into a glass bonded Sodalite waste form known as the ceramic waste form (CWF). • Electrochemical process UDS and SS cladding hulls which are melted into an iron based alloy waste form. Mass and volume estimates for each of the recommended waste forms based on the source terms from the reference mass balances are reported. In addition to the above listed primary waste streams, a range of secondary process wastes are generated by aqueous reprocessing of LWR fuel, metal SFR fuel fabrication, and electrochemical reprocessing of SFR fuel. These secondary wastes have been summarized and volumes estimated by type and classification. The important waste management data gaps and research needs have been summarized for each primary waste stream and selected waste process.

Published: September 3, 2021


Vienna J.D., E.D. Collins, J.V. Crum, W.L. Ebert, S.M. Frank, T. Garn, and D. Gombert, et al. 2015. Closed Fuel Cycle Waste Treatment Strategy. PNNL-24114. Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.