A Study of Continuous Electrochemical Processing Operation Feasibility for Spent Nuclear Fuel

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dc.contributor.advisor David N. McNelis, Committee Member en_US
dc.contributor.advisor Man-Sung Yim, Committee Chair en_US
dc.contributor.advisor Jeff Thompson, Committee Member en_US
dc.contributor.author Bobolea, Ruxandra en_US
dc.date.accessioned 2010-04-02T17:58:02Z
dc.date.available 2010-04-02T17:58:02Z
dc.date.issued 2009-06-16 en_US
dc.identifier.other etd-02272009-172349 en_US
dc.identifier.uri http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/738
dc.description.abstract Several methods of reprocessing are currently available to separate recyclable materials from spent nuclear fuel. Electrochemical processing, also known as pyroprocessing, represents a non-aqueous method of reprocessing that uses high temperature molten-salt based electrochemical technology. This method provides several advantages over conventional aqueous processing with respect to proliferation resistance. With electrochemical processing there is no pure plutonium separation and the presence of large decay heat and high radiation barriers dissuades diversion attempts. As the current electrochemical processing relies on a batch operation, the total throughput of the system is inherently limited and nuclear materials accounting is difficult due to the nonhomogeneous nature of the process. This results in much larger uncertainties in the total amount of material processed compared to the aqueous UREX+ or PUREX processes. Continuous electrochemical processing was considered as a way to address these concerns. The objective of this research was to investigate the feasibility of a continuous electrochemical processing operation to achieve the desired separation performance by using computer based simulation. The conceptual design of the continuous electrochemical processing includes two separate stages in a molten salt medium. First, a pure uranium deposit is collected at a solid cathode during the uranium extraction stage. When the amount of plutonium in electrorefiner becomes comparable or higher than the amount of uranium in the electrorefiner, a liquid cathode is employed to extract both uranium and plutonium in the second stage. In this approach, molten salt, as the material carrier, flows through the electrorefiner while chopped spent fuel is continuously fed into the system. Simulations of electrochemical reactions at the electrode surfaces were based on the kinetic modeling capability of a time-dependent code, REFIN. Based on a screening study performed for the most significant process parameters over a broad range of values, a functional combination of initial uranium and plutonium concentrations at the anode and in the molten salt was determined for continuous operation. This dictated the use of a higher concentration of uranium than plutonium at the anode and a lower concentration of uranium than plutonium in the molten salt. Furthermore, using design of experiment technique for computers, a refinement of initial concentrations was performed to maximize the total throughput and minimize the operational time. The flow velocity profiles and chemical concentration distributions of elements in molten salt have been determined through three dimensional Computational Fluid Dynamics simulations using ANSYS CFX. This approach resulted in the need to evaluate the diffusion layer thickness at the cathode – molten salt interface, an important parameter for the electrochemical process. Computer based simulations of the continuous electrochemical processing concept presented in this study have provided an indication that electrochemical processing could be a viable technology for closing the nuclear fuel cycle. en_US
dc.rights I hereby certify that, if appropriate, I have obtained and attached hereto a written permission statement from the owner(s) of each third party copyrighted matter to be included in my thesis, dis sertation, or project report, allowing distribution as specified below. I certify that the version I submitted is the same as that approved by my advisory committee. I hereby grant to NC State University or its agents the non-exclusive license to archive and make accessible, under the conditions specified below, my thesis, dissertation, or project report in whole or in part in all forms of media, now or hereafter known. I retain all other ownership rights to the copyright of the thesis, dissertation or project report. I also retain the right to use in future works (such as articles or books) all or part of this thesis, dissertation, or project report. en_US
dc.subject diffusion layer thickness en_US
dc.subject continuous reprocessing en_US
dc.subject electrochemical processing en_US
dc.subject spent nuclear fuel en_US
dc.subject pyroprocessing en_US
dc.subject electrorefiner en_US
dc.title A Study of Continuous Electrochemical Processing Operation Feasibility for Spent Nuclear Fuel en_US
dc.degree.name MS en_US
dc.degree.level thesis en_US
dc.degree.discipline Nuclear Engineering en_US

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