Nuclear Waste Management using Electrometallurgical Technology
System Engineering Design
Two major pieces of electrometallurgical process equipment are the Electrorefiner and the Cathode Processor. NE personnel have been involved in the conceptual design, final design, procurement, manufacture, installation and testing of these two units which now reside in FCF. These two units required the development of first-of-a-kind large-scale systems and components with complex requirements including corrosive and hazardous materials, high-temperature structural integrity, vacuum and pressure conditions, and remote handling operations.
The electrorefiner is an apparatus used for electrometallurgical treatment of spent nuclear fuel to facilitate storage and ultimate disposal. The input material is introduced at the anode of an electrolytic cell. The desired materials are electrochemically oxidized in a molten lithium and potassium chloride salt and transported to a cathode where they are again reduced to metallic form and collected either as a dendritic deposit on a solid mandrel or as particulate or dissolved material in a crucible of molten cadmium. After removal, these materials are sent on to the cathode processor.
The electrorefining process is conducted in a vessel that is radiatively
coupled to a resistance-heated furnace. Handling of the electrodes is
performed by dedicated mechanisms mounted on the electrorefiner using
general-purpose in-cell remote handling equipment. All electrorefiner
functions are computer controlled and the entire system is qualified for
full remote operation and maintenance.
- Process temperature: 930 deg-F
- Electrode deposition current: 600 A
- Batch size (dendritic deposit): 20 kg
- Process time: ~ 24 hr
- Heater power: 11 kW
The cathode processor is a large-scale high-temperature retort for processing metals under vacuum or pressure conditions. The input charge is the solid product of the electrorefiner process. The furnace region is heated with an internal passively cooled electrical induction heater, to distill the cadmium and salts in a vacuum. The process metal ingots are formed after melting at temperatures up to 2500 deg-F. An internal condenser region was designed to remain cool to collect the distillate. The entire operation is computer controlled and designed for remote operation and maintenance.
The Prototype Cathode Processor facility at Argonne has recently undergone a capacity upgrade. For more information visit the Prototype Cathode Processor section of this web site.
Last Modified: Tue, January 25, 2011 4:42 PM