The UK is a world leader in reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, particularly by the use of aqueous methods, given its experience in operating reprocessing plants such as Sellafield’s Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP).
To support alternative advanced fuel cycles, improve safety and efficiency and minimise waste burdens, next generation recycle processes may be substantially different.
Such processes are currently being explored to maximise the sustainability of nuclear energy by using the separated actinides as a source of fuel, to reduce the long-term radioactivity in high-level wastes and to increase the proliferation resistance of future nuclear fuel cycles. Novel separation methods are being studied in the areas of solvent extraction, pyroprocessing and solid phase extraction.
At The University of Manchester, research in recycle bridges across multiple disciplines from the fundamental molecular level to applied process scales. Key to the successful impact of recycle research is the ability to undertake experiments that directly relate to recycle conditions.
Such capability is provided by the Department of Chemical Engineering, the Centre for Radiochemistry Research, which has the ability to probe relevant transuranic behaviour, and the Dalton Cumbrian Facility, where radiation testing can be performed.