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Sellafield nuclear reprocessing site, UK

Nuclear reprocessing is the chemical separation of fission products and actinides from spent nuclear fuel.[1] Originally, reprocessing was used solely to extract plutonium for producing nuclear weapons. With commercialization of nuclear power, the reprocessed plutonium was recycled back into MOX nuclear fuel for thermal reactors.[2] The reprocessed uranium, also known as the spent fuel material, can in principle also be re-used as fuel, but that is only economical when uranium supply is low and prices are high. Nuclear reprocessing may extend beyond fuel and include the reprocessing of other nuclear reactor material, such as Zircaloy cladding.

The high radioactivity of spent nuclear material means that reprocessing must be highly controlled and carefully executed in advanced facilities by specialized personnel. Numerous processes exist, with the chemical based PUREX process dominating. Alternatives include heating to drive off volatile elements, burning via oxidation, and fluoride volatility (which uses extremely reactive Fluorine). Each process results in some form of refined nuclear product, with radioactive waste as a byproduct. Because this could allow for weapons grade nuclear material, nuclear reprocessing is a concern for nuclear proliferation and is thus tightly regulated.

Relatively high cost is associated with spent fuel reprocessing compared to the once-through fuel cycle, but fuel use can be increased and waste volumes decreased.[3] Nuclear fuel reprocessing is performed routinely in Europe, Russia, and Japan. In the United States, the Obama administration stepped back from President Bush's plans for commercial-scale reprocessing and reverted to a program focused on reprocessing-related scientific research.[4] Not all nuclear fuel requires reprocessing; a breeder reactor is not restricted to using recycled plutonium and uranium. It can employ all the actinides, closing the nuclear fuel cycle and potentially multiplying the energy extracted from natural uranium by about 60 times.[5][6]

Separated components and disposition

See also: Spent nuclear fuel

The potentially useful components dealt with in nuclear reprocessing comprise specific actinides (plutonium, uranium, and some minor actinides). The lighter elements components include fission products, activation products, and cladding.

material disposition
plutonium, minor actinides, reprocessed uranium fission in fast, fusion fission hybrid, or subcritical reactor or use as MOX fuel
reprocessed uranium, filters less stringent storage as intermediate-level waste
long-lived fission and activation products nuclear transmutation or geological repository
medium-lived fission products 137Cs and 90Sr medium-term storage as high-level waste; decay heat could be used to drive a Stirling engine
useful radionuclides, rare earths (lanthanides), and noble metals industrial and medical uses
cladding, fission product zirconium re-use for zircalloy cladding or storage as intermediate level waste


The first large-scale nuclear reactors were built during World War II. These reactors were designed for the production of plutonium for use in nuclear weapons. The only reprocessing required, therefore, was the extraction of the plutonium (free of fission-product contamination) from the spent natural uranium fuel. In 1943, several methods were proposed for separating the relatively small quantity of plutonium from the uranium and fission products. The first method selected, a precipitation process called the bismuth phosphate process, was developed and tested at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) between 1943 and 1945 to produce quantities of plutonium for evaluation and use in the US weapons programs. ORNL produced the first macroscopic quantities (grams) of separated plutonium with these processes.

The bismuth phosphate process was first operated on a large scale at the Hanford Site, in the later part of 1944. It was successful for plutonium separation in the emergency situation existing then, but it had a significant weakness: the inability to recover uranium.

The first successful solvent extraction process for the recovery of pure uranium and plutonium was developed at ORNL in 1949.[7] The PUREX process is the current method of extraction. Separation plants were also constructed at Savannah River Site and a smaller plant at West Valley Reprocessing Plant which closed by 1972 because of its inability to meet new regulatory requirements.[8]

Reprocessing of civilian fuel has long been employed at the COGEMA La Hague site in France, the Sellafield site in the United Kingdom, the Mayak Chemical Combine in Russia, and at sites such as the Tokai plant in Japan, the Tarapur plant in India, and briefly at the West Valley Reprocessing Plant in the United States.

In October 1976,[9] concern of nuclear weapons proliferation (especially after India demonstrated nuclear weapons capabilities using reprocessing technology) led President Gerald Ford to issue a Presidential directive to indefinitely suspend the commercial reprocessing and recycling of plutonium in the U.S. On 7 April 1977, President Jimmy Carter banned the reprocessing of commercial reactor spent nuclear fuel. The key issue driving this policy was the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation by diversion of plutonium from the civilian fuel cycle, and to encourage other nations to follow the US lead.[10][11][12] After that, only countries that already had large investments in reprocessing infrastructure continued to reprocess spent nuclear fuel. President Reagan lifted the ban in 1981, but did not provide the substantial subsidy that would have been necessary to start up commercial reprocessing.[13]

In March 1999, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reversed its policy and signed a contract with a consortium of Duke Energy, COGEMA, and Stone & Webster (DCS) to design and operate a mixed oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication facility. Site preparation at the Savannah River Site (South Carolina) began in October 2005.[14] In 2011 the New York Times reported "...11 years after the government awarded a construction contract, the cost of the project has soared to nearly $5 billion. The vast concrete and steel structure is a half-finished hulk, and the government has yet to find a single customer, despite offers of lucrative subsidies." TVA (currently the most likely customer) said in April 2011 that it would delay a decision until it could see how MOX fuel performed in the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi.[15]

Separation technologies

Water and organic solvents


Main article: PUREX

PUREX, the current standard method, is an acronym standing for Plutonium and Uranium Recovery by EXtraction. The PUREX process is a liquid-liquid extraction method used to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, to extract uranium and plutonium, independent of each other, from the fission products. This is the most developed and widely used process in the industry at present.

When used on fuel from commercial power reactors the plutonium extracted typically contains too much Pu-240 to be considered "weapons-grade" plutonium, ideal for use in a nuclear weapon. Nevertheless, highly reliable nuclear weapons can be built at all levels of technical sophistication using reactor-grade plutonium.[16] Moreover, reactors that are capable of refueling frequently can be used to produce weapon-grade plutonium, which can later be recovered using PUREX. Because of this, PUREX chemicals are monitored.[17]

Plutonium Processing

Modifications of PUREX


The PUREX process can be modified to make a UREX (URanium EXtraction) process which could be used to save space inside high level nuclear waste disposal sites, such as the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, by removing the uranium which makes up the vast majority of the mass and volume of used fuel and recycling it as reprocessed uranium.

The UREX process is a PUREX process which has been modified to prevent the plutonium from being extracted. This can be done by adding a plutonium reductant before the first metal extraction step. In the UREX process, ~99.9% of the uranium and >95% of technetium are separated from each other and the other fission products and actinides. The key is the addition of acetohydroxamic acid (AHA) to the extraction and scrub sections of the process. The addition of AHA greatly diminishes the extractability of plutonium and neptunium, providing somewhat greater proliferation resistance than with the plutonium extraction stage of the PUREX process.[citation needed]


Adding a second extraction agent, octyl(phenyl)-N, N-dibutyl carbamoylmethyl phosphine oxide (CMPO) in combination with tributylphosphate, (TBP), the PUREX process can be turned into the TRUEX (TRansUranic EXtraction) process. TRUEX was invented in the US by Argonne National Laboratory and is designed to remove the transuranic metals (Am/Cm) from waste. The idea is that by lowering the alpha activity of the waste, the majority of the waste can then be disposed of with greater ease. In common with PUREX this process operates by a solvation mechanism.


As an alternative to TRUEX, an extraction process using a malondiamide has been devised. The DIAMEX (DIAMide EXtraction) process has the advantage of avoiding the formation of organic waste which contains elements other than carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen. Such an organic waste can be burned without the formation of acidic gases which could contribute to acid rain (although the acidic gases could be recovered by a scrubber). The DIAMEX process is being worked on in Europe by the French CEA. The process is sufficiently mature that an industrial plant could be constructed with the existing knowledge of the process.[18] In common with PUREX this process operates by a solvation mechanism.


Selective ActiNide EXtraction. As part of the management of minor actinides it has been proposed that the lanthanides and trivalent minor actinides should be removed from the PUREX raffinate by a process such as DIAMEX or TRUEX. To allow the actinides such as americium to be either reused in industrial sources or used as fuel, the lanthanides must be removed. The lanthanides have large neutron cross sections and hence they would poison a neutron driven nuclear reaction. To date the extraction system for the SANEX process has not been defined, but currently several different research groups are working towards a process. For instance the French CEA is working on a bis-triazinyl pyridine (BTP) based process.[19][20][21] Other systems such as the dithiophosphinic acids are being worked on by some other workers.


The UNiversal EXtraction process was developed in Russia and the Czech Republic; it is designed to completely remove the most troublesome radioisotopes (Sr, Cs and minor actinides) from the raffinate remaining after the extraction of uranium and plutonium from used nuclear fuel.[22][23] The chemistry is based upon the interaction of caesium and strontium with polyethylene glycol[24][25] and a cobalt carborane anion (known as chlorinated cobalt dicarbollide). The actinides are extracted by CMPO, and the diluent is a polar aromatic such as nitrobenzene. Other diluents such as meta-nitrobenzotrifluoride and phenyl trifluoromethyl sulfone[26] have been suggested as well.

Electrochemical and ion exchange methods

An exotic method using electrochemistry and ion exchange in ammonium carbonate has been reported.[27] Other methods for the extraction of uranium using ion exchange in alkaline carbonate and "fumed" lead oxide have also been reported.[28]

Obsolete methods

Bismuth phosphate

The bismuth phosphate process is an obsolete process that adds significant unnecessary material to the final radioactive waste. The bismuth phosphate process has been replaced by solvent extraction processes. The bismuth phosphate process was designed to extract plutonium from aluminium-clad nuclear fuel rods, containing uranium. The fuel was decladded by boiling it in caustic soda. After decladding, the uranium metal was dissolved in nitric acid.

The plutonium at this point is in the +4 oxidation state. It was then precipitated out of the solution by the addition of bismuth nitrate and phosphoric acid to form the bismuth phosphate. The plutonium was coprecipitated with this. The supernatant liquid (containing many of the fission products) was separated from the solid. The precipitate was then dissolved in nitric acid before the addition of an oxidant (such as potassium permanganate) to produce PuO22+. The plutonium was maintained in the +6 oxidation state by addition of a dichromate salt.

The bismuth phosphate was next re-precipitated, leaving the plutonium in solution, and an iron(II) salt (such as ferrous sulfate) was added. The plutonium was again re-precipitated using a bismuth phosphate carrier and a combination of lanthanum salts and fluoride added, forming a solid lanthanum fluoride carrier for the plutonium. Addition of an alkali produced an oxide. The combined lanthanum plutonium oxide was collected and extracted with nitric acid to form plutonium nitrate.[29]

Hexone or REDOX

This is a liquid-liquid extraction process which uses methyl isobutyl ketone codenamed hexone as the extractant. The extraction is by a solvation mechanism. This process has the disadvantage of requiring the use of a salting-out reagent (aluminium nitrate) to increase the nitrate concentration in the aqueous phase to obtain a reasonable distribution ratio (D value). Also, hexone is degraded by concentrated nitric acid. This process was used in 1952-1956 on the Hanford plant T and has been replaced by the PUREX process.[30][31]

Pu4+ + 4NO3 + 2S → [Pu(NO3)4S2]

Butex, β,β'-dibutyoxydiethyl ether

A process based on a solvation extraction process using the triether extractant named above. This process has the disadvantage of requiring the use of a salting-out reagent (aluminium nitrate) to increase the nitrate concentration in the aqueous phase to obtain a reasonable distribution ratio. This process was used at Windscale in 1951-1964. This process has been replaced by PUREX, which was shown to be a superior technology for larger scale reprocessing.[32]

Sodium acetate

The sodium uranyl acetate process was used by the early Soviet nuclear industry to recover plutonium from irradiated fuel.[33] It was a never used in the West; the idea is to dissolve the fuel in nitric acid, alter the oxidation state of the plutonium, and then add acetic acid and base. This would convert the uranium and plutonium into a solid acetate salt.

Explosion of the crystallized acetates-nitrates in a non-cooled waste tank caused the Kyshtym disaster in 1957.

Alternatives to PUREX

As there are some downsides to the PUREX process, there have been efforts to develop alternatives to the process, some of them compatible with PUREX (i.e. the residue from one process could be used as feedstock for the other) and others wholly incompatible. None of these have (as of the 2020s) reached widespread commercial use, but some have seen large scale tests or firm commitments towards their future larger scale implementation.[34]


The most developed, though commercially unfielded, alternative reprocessing method, is Pyroprocessing,[35] suggested as part of the depicted metallic-fueled, Integral fast reactor (IFR) a sodium fast reactor concept of the 1990s. After the spent fuel is dissolved in molten salt, all of the recyclable actinides, consisting largely of plutonium and uranium though with important minor constituents, are extracted using electrorefining/electrowinning. The resulting mixture keeps the plutonium at all times in an unseparated gamma and alpha emitting actinide form, that is also mildly self-protecting in theft scenarios.[36]

Pyroprocessing is a generic term for high-temperature methods. Solvents are molten salts (e.g. LiCl + KCl or LiF + CaF2) and molten metals (e.g. cadmium, bismuth, magnesium) rather than water and organic compounds. Electrorefining, distillation, and solvent-solvent extraction are common steps.

These processes are not currently in significant use worldwide, but they have been pioneered at Argonne National Laboratory[37][38] with current research also taking place at CRIEPI in Japan, the Nuclear Research Institute of Řež in Czech Republic, Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research in India and KAERI in South Korea.[39][40][41][42]

Advantages of pyroprocessing

Disadvantages of pyroprocessing


The electrolysis methods are based on the difference in the standard potentials of uranium, plutonium and minor actinides in a molten salt. The standard potential of uranium is the lowest, therefore when a potential is applied, the uranium will be reduced at the cathode out of the molten salt solution before the other elements.[46]

Experimental electro refinement cell at Argonne National Laboratory

PYRO-A and -B for IFR

These processes were developed by Argonne National Laboratory and used in the Integral Fast Reactor project.

PYRO-A is a means of separating actinides (elements within the actinide family, generally heavier than U-235) from non-actinides. The spent fuel is placed in an anode basket which is immersed in a molten salt electrolyte. An electric current is applied, causing the uranium metal (or sometimes oxide, depending on the spent fuel) to plate out on a solid metal cathode while the other actinides (and the rare earths) can be absorbed into a liquid cadmium cathode. Many of the fission products (such as caesium, zirconium and strontium) remain in the salt.[47][48][49] As alternatives to the molten cadmium electrode it is possible to use a molten bismuth cathode, or a solid aluminium cathode.[50]

As an alternative to electrowinning, the wanted metal can be isolated by using a molten alloy of an electropositive metal and a less reactive metal.[51]

Since the majority of the long term radioactivity, and volume, of spent fuel comes from actinides, removing the actinides produces waste that is more compact, and not nearly as dangerous over the long term. The radioactivity of this waste will then drop to the level of various naturally occurring minerals and ores within a few hundred, rather than thousands of, years.[52]

The mixed actinides produced by pyrometallic processing can be used again as nuclear fuel, as they are virtually all either fissile, or fertile, though many of these materials would require a fast breeder reactor to be burned efficiently. In a thermal neutron spectrum, the concentrations of several heavy actinides (curium-242 and plutonium-240) can become quite high, creating fuel that is substantially different from the usual uranium or mixed uranium-plutonium oxides (MOX) that most current reactors were designed to use.

Another pyrochemical process, the PYRO-B process, has been developed for the processing and recycling of fuel from a transmuter reactor ( a fast breeder reactor designed to convert transuranic nuclear waste into fission products ). A typical transmuter fuel is free from uranium and contains recovered transuranics in an inert matrix such as metallic zirconium. In the PYRO-B processing of such fuel, an electrorefining step is used to separate the residual transuranic elements from the fission products and recycle the transuranics to the reactor for fissioning. Newly generated technetium and iodine are extracted for incorporation into transmutation targets, and the other fission products are sent to waste.


Voloxidation (for volumetric oxidation) involves heating oxide fuel with oxygen, sometimes with alternating oxidation and reduction, or alternating oxidation by ozone to uranium trioxide with decomposition by heating back to triuranium octoxide.[44] A major purpose is to capture tritium as tritiated water vapor before further processing where it would be difficult to retain the tritium. Tritium is a difficult contaminant to remove from aqueous solution, as it cannot be separated from water except by isotope separation. However, tritium is also a valuable product used in industry science and nuclear weapons, so recovery of a stream of hydrogen or water with a high tritium content can make targeted recovery economically worthwhile. Other volatile elements leave the fuel and must be recovered, especially iodine, technetium, and carbon-14. Voloxidation also breaks up the fuel or increases its surface area to enhance penetration of reagents in following reprocessing steps.



Volatilization in isolation

Simply heating spent oxide fuel in an inert atmosphere or vacuum at a temperature between 700 °C (1,292 °F) and 1,000 °C (1,830 °F) as a first reprocessing step can remove several volatile elements, including caesium whose isotope caesium-137 emits about half of the heat produced by the spent fuel over the following 100 years of cooling (however, most of the other half is from strontium-90, which has a similar half-life). The estimated overall mass balance for 20,000 g of processed fuel with 2,000 g of cladding is:[53]

Input Residue Zeolite
Palladium 28 14 14
Tellurium 10 5 5
Molybdenum 70 70
Caesium 46 46
Rubidium 8 8
Silver 2 2
Iodine 4 4
Cladding 2000 2000
Uranium 19218 19218 ?
Others 614 614 ?
Total 22000 21851 145 4 0



Fluoride volatility

Main article: Fluoride volatility

Blue elements have volatile fluorides or are already volatile; green elements do not but have volatile chlorides; red elements have neither, but the elements themselves or their oxides are volatile at very high temperatures. Yields at 100,1,2,3 years after fission, not considering later neutron capture, fraction of 100% not 200%. Beta decay Kr-85Rb, Sr-90Zr, Ru-106Pd, Sb-125Te, Cs-137Ba, Ce-144Nd, Sm-151Eu, Eu-155Gd visible.

In the fluoride volatility process, fluorine is reacted with the fuel. Fluorine is so much more reactive than even oxygen that small particles of ground oxide fuel will burst into flame when dropped into a chamber full of fluorine. This is known as flame fluorination; the heat produced helps the reaction proceed. Most of the uranium, which makes up the bulk of the fuel, is converted to uranium hexafluoride, the form of uranium used in uranium enrichment, which has a very low boiling point. Technetium, the main long-lived fission product, is also efficiently converted to its volatile hexafluoride. A few other elements also form similarly volatile hexafluorides, pentafluorides, or heptafluorides. The volatile fluorides can be separated from excess fluorine by condensation, then separated from each other by fractional distillation or selective reduction. Uranium hexafluoride and technetium hexafluoride have very similar boiling points and vapor pressures, which makes complete separation more difficult.

Many of the fission products volatilized are the same ones volatilized in non-fluorinated, higher-temperature volatilization, such as iodine, tellurium and molybdenum; notable differences are that technetium is volatilized, but caesium is not.

Some transuranium elements such as plutonium, neptunium and americium can form volatile fluorides, but these compounds are not stable when the fluorine partial pressure is decreased.[54] Most of the plutonium and some of the uranium will initially remain in ash which drops to the bottom of the flame fluorinator. The plutonium-uranium ratio in the ash may even approximate the composition needed for fast neutron reactor fuel. Further fluorination of the ash can remove all the uranium, neptunium, and plutonium as volatile fluorides; however, some other minor actinides may not form volatile fluorides and instead remain with the alkaline fission products. Some noble metals may not form fluorides at all, but remain in metallic form; however ruthenium hexafluoride is relatively stable and volatile.

Distillation of the residue at higher temperatures can separate lower-boiling transition metal fluorides and alkali metal (Cs, Rb) fluorides from higher-boiling lanthanide and alkaline earth metal (Sr, Ba) and yttrium fluorides. The temperatures involved are much higher, but can be lowered somewhat by distilling in a vacuum. If a carrier salt like lithium fluoride or sodium fluoride is being used as a solvent, high-temperature distillation is a way to separate the carrier salt for reuse.

Molten salt reactor designs carry out fluoride volatility reprocessing continuously or at frequent intervals. The goal is to return actinides to the molten fuel mixture for eventual fission, while removing fission products that are neutron poisons, or that can be more securely stored outside the reactor core while awaiting eventual transfer to permanent storage.

Chloride volatility and solubility

Many of the elements that form volatile high-valence fluorides will also form volatile high-valence chlorides. Chlorination and distillation is another possible method for separation. The sequence of separation may differ usefully from the sequence for fluorides; for example, zirconium tetrachloride and tin tetrachloride have relatively low boiling points of 331 °C (628 °F) and 114.1 °C (237.4 °F). Chlorination has even been proposed as a method for removing zirconium fuel cladding,[44] instead of mechanical decladding.

Chlorides are likely to be easier than fluorides to later convert back to other compounds, such as oxides.

Chlorides remaining after volatilization may also be separated by solubility in water. Chlorides of alkaline elements like americium, curium, lanthanides, strontium, caesium are more soluble than those of uranium, neptunium, plutonium, and zirconium.

Advantages of halogen volatility

Disadvantages of halogen volatility

Radioanalytical separations

To determine the distribution of radioactive metals for analytical purposes, Solvent Impregnated Resins (SIRs) can be used. SIRs are porous particles, which contain an extractant inside their pores. This approach avoids the liquid-liquid separation step required in conventional liquid-liquid extraction. For the preparation of SIRs for radioanalytical separations, organic Amberlite XAD-4 or XAD-7 can be used. Possible extractants are e.g. trihexyltetradecylphosphonium chloride(CYPHOS IL-101) or N,N0-dialkyl-N,N0-diphenylpyridine-2,6-dicarboxyamides (R-PDA; R = butyl, octy I, decyl, dodecyl).[59]


The relative economics of reprocessing-waste disposal and interim storage-direct disposal was the focus of much debate over the first decade of the 2000s. Studies[60] have modeled the total fuel cycle costs of a reprocessing-recycling system based on one-time recycling of plutonium in existing thermal reactors (as opposed to the proposed breeder reactor cycle) and compare this to the total costs of an open fuel cycle with direct disposal. The range of results produced by these studies is very wide, but all agreed that under then-current economic conditions the reprocessing-recycle option is the more costly one.[61] While the uranium market - particularly its short term fluctuations - has only a minor impact on the cost of electricity from nuclear power, long-term trends in the uranium market do significantly affect the economics of nuclear reprocessing. If uranium prices were to rise and remain consistently high, "stretching the fuel supply" via MOX fuel, breeder reactors or even the thorium fuel cycle could become more attractive. However, if uranium prices remain low, reprocessing will remain less attractive.[citation needed]

If reprocessing is undertaken only to reduce the radioactivity level of spent fuel it should be taken into account that spent nuclear fuel becomes less radioactive over time. After 40 years its radioactivity drops by 99.9%,[62] though it still takes over a thousand years for the level of radioactivity to approach that of natural uranium.[63] However the level of transuranic elements, including plutonium-239, remains high for over 100,000 years, so if not reused as nuclear fuel, then those elements need secure disposal because of nuclear proliferation reasons as well as radiation hazard.

On 25 October 2011 a commission of the Japanese Atomic Energy Commission revealed during a meeting calculations about the costs of recycling nuclear fuel for power generation. These costs could be twice the costs of direct geological disposal of spent fuel: the cost of extracting plutonium and handling spent fuel was estimated at 1.98 to 2.14 yen per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated. Discarding the spent fuel as waste would cost only 1 to 1.35 yen per kilowatt-hour.[64][65]

In July 2004 Japanese newspapers reported that the Japanese Government had estimated the costs of disposing radioactive waste, contradicting claims four months earlier that no such estimates had been made. The cost of non-reprocessing options was estimated to be between a quarter and a third ($5.5–7.9 billion) of the cost of reprocessing ($24.7 billion). At the end of the year 2011 it became clear that Masaya Yasui, who had been director of the Nuclear Power Policy Planning Division in 2004, had instructed his subordinate in April 2004 to conceal the data. The fact that the data were deliberately concealed obliged the ministry to re-investigate the case and to reconsider whether to punish the officials involved.[66][67]

List of sites

Country Reprocessing site Fuel type Procedure Reprocessing
capacity tHM/yr
or operating period
 Belgium Mol LWR, MTR (Material test reactor) 80[68] 1966–1974[68]
 China intermediate pilot plant[69] 60–100 1968-early 1970s
 China Plant 404[70] 50 2004
 Germany Karlsruhe, WAK LWR[71] 35[68] 1971–1990[68]
 France Marcoule, UP 1 Military 1200[68] 1958[68]-1997[72]
 France Marcoule, CEA APM FBR PUREX DIAMEX SANEX[73] 6[71] 1988–present[71]
 France La Hague, UP 2 LWR[71] PUREX[74] 900[68] 1967–1974[68]
 France La Hague, UP 2–400 LWR[71] PUREX[74] 400[68] 1976–1990[68]
 France La Hague, UP 2–800 LWR PUREX[74] 800[68] 1990[68]
 France La Hague, UP 3 LWR PUREX[74] 800[68] 1990[68]
 UK Windscale, B204 Magnox, LWR BUTEX 750[68] 1956–1962,[68] 1969-1973
 UK Sellafield, Magnox Reprocessing Plant Magnox,[71] LWR, FBR PUREX 1500[68] 1964[68]-2022
 UK Dounreay FBR[71] 8[68] 1980[68]
 UK THORP AGR, LWR PUREX 900[68][75] 1994[68][75]-2018
 Italy Rotondella Thorium 5[68] 1968[68] (shutdown)
 India Trombay Military PUREX[76] 60[68] 1965[68]
 India Tarapur PHWR PUREX 100[68] 1982[68]
 India Kalpakkam PHWR and FBTR PUREX 100[77] 1998[77]
 India Tarapur PHWR 100[78] 2011[78]
 Israel Dimona Military 60–100[79] ~1960–present
 Japan Tokai LWR[80] 210[68] 1977[68]-2006[81]
 Japan Rokkasho LWR[71] 800[68][75] under construction (2024)[82]
 Pakistan New Labs, Rawalpindi Military/Plutonium/Thorium 80[83] 1982–present
 Pakistan Khushab Nuclear Complex, Atomic City of Pakistan HWR/Military/Tritium 22 kg[84] 1986–present
 Russia Mayak Plant B Military 400 1948-196?[85]
 Russia Mayak Plant BB, RT-1 LWR[71] PUREX + Np separation[86] 400[68][75] 1978[68]
 Russia Tomsk-7 Radiochemical Plant Military 6000[79] 1956[87]
 Russia Zheleznogorsk (Krasnoyarsk-26) Military 3500[79] 1964–~2010[88]
 Russia Zheleznogorsk, RT-2 VVER 800[68] under construction (2030)
 USA, WA Hanford Site Military bismuth phosphate, REDOX, PUREX 1944–1988[89]
 USA, SC Savannah River Site Military/LWR/HWR/Tritium PUREX, REDOX, THOREX, Np separation 5000[90] 1952–2002
 USA, NY West Valley LWR[71] PUREX 300[68] 1966–1972[68]
 USA, NC Barnwell LWR PUREX 1500 never permitted to operate[91]

See also


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  2. ^ MOX fuel can extend the energy extracted by about 12% but slightly reduces plutonium stocks. Information from the World Nuclear Association about MOX Archived 1 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Harold Feiveson; et al. (2011). "Managing nuclear spent fuel: Policy lessons from a 10-country study". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Archived from the original on 26 April 2012. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  4. ^ "Adieu to nuclear recycling". Nature. 460 (7252): 152. 2009. Bibcode:2009Natur.460R.152.. doi:10.1038/460152b. PMID 19587715.
  5. ^ "Supply of Uranium". World Nuclear Association. Archived from the original on 12 February 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  6. ^ "Fast Neutron Reactors". World Nuclear Association. Archived from the original on 24 February 2013. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
  7. ^ Lanham, W. B.; Runion, T. C. (1 October 1949). "PUREX PROCESS FOR PLUTONIUM AND URANIUM RECOVERY". Other Information: Decl. with deletions Apr. 18, 1960. Orig. Receipt Date: 31-DEC-60. doi:10.2172/4165457.
  8. ^ "Plutonium Recovery from Spent Fuel Reprocessing by Nuclear Fuel Services at West Valley, New York from 1966 to 1972". U.S. Department of Energy. February 1996. Archived from the original on 14 March 2021. Retrieved 17 June 2007.
  9. ^ Gerald Ford 28 October 1976 Statement on Nuclear Policy Archived 26 September 2018 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
  10. ^ Dr. Ned Xoubi (2008). "The Politics, Science, Environment, and common sense of Spent Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing 3 decades Later" (PDF). Symposium on the Technology of Peaceful Nuclear Energy, Irbid, Jordan. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 May 2011.
  11. ^ "Depleted Cranium » Blog Archive » Why You Can't Build a Bomb from Spent Fuel". Archived from the original on 4 February 2012.
  12. ^ "Proving a Negative – Why Modern Used Nuclear Fuel Cannot Be Used to Make a Weapon – Atomic Insights". Atomic Insights. 17 February 2015. Archived from the original on 7 January 2018. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  13. ^ Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing: U.S. Policy Development Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. (PDF). Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  14. ^ Duke, Cogema, Stone & Webster (DCS) Reports sent to NRC Archived 23 June 2017 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
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  1. ^ a radioisotope with a two year half life will retain 0.5^0.5 or over 70% of its power after a year - all those isotopes have half lives longer than two years and would thus retain even more power. Even if the yearly refueling window were to be missed, over half the power would still remain for the second refueling window

Further reading