The ITER tokamak device being built for about $10 billion by an international consortium will operate
with the Lawson criterion satisfied, as shown in the figure below. This completes the 5 order of
magnitude improvement that Magnetic Fusion needed in 1969. The advancement is even more
impressive than reaching this goal. Basic understanding of plasma physics and plasma engineering
has advanced and the speed of development of even more advanced devices can be expected to
accelerate. Fusion plasma physics has become a mature engineering science and new concepts
can be evaluated using the tools developed in the last 35 years.
The LVPP technology was broadened to
include the use of high flux electron beams to
vaporize and ionize solid materials. The
application of this technology to nuclear fuel
element recycling was presented in a paper
entitled "The Augmentation of the Separation
Cycles of an Actinide Burner with Plasma
Separation Technologies, at the Advanced
Nuclear Reactor Meeting at General Atomic,
on March 22, 2001.
Sandia National Laboratory has an electron
beam device that can be used for this
purpose and has offered to team with
Eastlund Scientific Enterprises to advance
HANFORD remains as a significant hazard to Washington State and it's neighboring states of Oregon, and Idaho. The
proposal for the LVPP described in the Economist article was not supported by the DOE. Subsequent presentations at
Hanford came to nought as representatives of Batelle pointed out that they already had chemical solutions. Those
solutions were the chemical approaches that still have not been put into practice 10 years later.
The Archimedes Group in San Diego spent an estimated $90 million in private investment to develop a "Plasma Mass
Filter" for separation of tank waste. , ran into the same brick wall. Hanford declined to move towards a plasma
Hanford waste tanks like those at the right
are filled with high level radioactive waste.
There are 65 million gallons of such waste
on the Hanford site in the State of
Washington. These tanks are close to the
surface and great care must be taken to
insure trucks and other vehicles do not drive
over the tanks.
These tanks are filled with all the waste
generated by the nuclear program at Hanford
since 1943. A terrorist attack on these sites
could have immense consequences for
Washington State and its neighboring states.
Plasma applications have proliferated. One of the most impressive is the plasma TV. The Plasmas in a plasma TV or tiny,
but are based on much the same physics as a fluorescent lamp and obey the same scientific principals as a Tokamak.
NUCLEAR FUEL ELEMENT RECYCLING
“Wet chemistry” via the PUREX (plutonium and uranium extraction) process is the starting point for
recovery of plutonium and uranium from Spent Commercial Fuel (SCF). The byproduct of this process is a
highly acidic, liquid high-level waste which must be neutralized prior to vitrification. The process was used
extensively in the production of plutonium for nuclear warheads and is the source of about 400 million
liters of reprocessing wastes at sites around the U.S. Weapons complex, primarily at the Hanford and
Savannah River sites. This process is still used by many nations, such as the UK , France, and Russia for
reprocessing of SCF.
“Geologic Disposal” of SCF is the main focus of the U.S. Program in which essentially unprocessed fuel
elements would be encapsulated in engineered containers and deposited in Yucca Mountain in southern
Nevada. However, the large volumes required easily could outstrip the capacity of that facility and could
require the establishment of a second U.S. Repository. It even has been suggested that the SCF be left
for many years at the reactor sites or stored as “Monitored Retrievable Storage” (MRS) at the Yucca
Mountain site -- but this is, at best, an interim solution. Proliferation issues arise in all of these scenarios.
This proposal is for simulation and systems studies of the “Large Volume Plasma Processor” (LVPP) for
separation of SCF into component species for enhancement of the ability to handle the materials for
storage and for commercial sale. The LVPP offers a separation science based on “dry” plasma
processing, a technology that already has contributed significantly to progress in the microelectronics
industry by replacing “wet chemistry” manufacturing Steps .This robust technology incorporates systems
initially developed for Magnetic Fusion Energy research and development. In particular, “Tokamak,”
“Mirror,” and “Electron Beam” technologies have been incorporated into the concept. The process utilizes
a plasma of 1,000,000°C or more as a “solvent” to dissociate and ionize pellets of SCF or other
radioactive waste such as that found in the Hanford tank farm. The ionized species then are separated,
utilizing magnetic and electromagnetic fields, and surface interactions according to their differences in
ionization potential, mass, solubility, co-deposition, and sputtering characteristics.
The potential benefits of an alternative to “wet” chemistry processing are as follows:
Thee volume of SCF could be reduced by LVPP processing, greatly increasing the capacity of the Yucca site. Separation of species would permit the development of containment materials and systems specifically tailored to each species, thus increasing container integrity and lifetime. The low activation waste (LAW) stream could be essentially be eliminated from certain radioactive waste treatment problems. Effective, economical separation of species in comparison with pyrometallurgy could improve the attractiveness of transmutation technologies. Some separated species could be sold for commercial applications. Plasma processing permits detailed accounting of species flow, improving non-proliferation control.
AUGMENTATION OF THE SEPARATION CYCLES OF AN ACTINIDE
BURNER WITH PLASMA SEPARATION TECHNIQUES
Fuel element separation with a high temperature plasma is discussed as a means of improving the
safety and economics of actinide transmutation. Plasma processing will be compared with the Purex,
Truex and Non-aqueous processes that have been discussed for ATW separation. A lecture at General
Atomic on March 22, 2001.