ACSEPT-Partitioning technologies and actinide science: Towards pilot facilities in Europe
Journal article, 2011
Actinide recycling by separation and transmutation is considered worldwide and particularly in several European countries as one of the most promising strategies to reduce the inventory of radioactive waste and to optimise the use of natural resources. With its multidisciplinary consortium of 34 partners from 12 European countries plus Australia and Japan, the European Research Project ACSEPT (Actinide recycling by SEParation and Transmutation) aims at contributing to the development of this strategy by studying both hydrometallurgical and pyrochemical partitioning routes. ACSEPT is organised into three technical domains: (i) Considering technically mature aqueous separation processes, ACSEPT works to optimise and select the most promising ones dedicated either to actinide partitioning (for the heterogeneous recycling of actinides in ADS target or specific actinide bearing blanket fuels in fast reactor) or to grouped actinide separation (for the homogeneous recycling of the actinides in fast reactor fuels). In addition, dissolution and conversion studies are underway taking into account the specific requirements of these specific fuels. (ii) Concerning pyrochemical separation processes. ACSEPT focuses on the enhancement of the two reference cores processes selected within FP6-EUROPART. R&D efforts are also devoted to key scientific and technical issues compulsory to set up a complete separation process (head-end steps, salt treatment for recycling and waste management). (iii) By integrating all the experimental results in engineering and system studies, both in hydro and pyro domains, ACSEPT will deliver relevant flowsheets and recommendations to prepare for future demonstrations at a pilot level. After more than two years of work, significant progress was achieved in process development with the demonstration of the SANEX and innovative SANEX flowsheets. Chemical systems were selected for GANEX and are under study. In addition, efforts were made to increase collaborations, mutualise and homogenise procedures and share good practices. Based on these assessments, it is now time to look at the future challenges to overcome. A training and education program is implemented to share the knowledge among the partitioning community, present and future generations of researchers. Specific attention is paid to the funding of post-doctorate fellowships, two having been appointed respectively at the end of 2008 and at the end of 2009. Through this training and education programme, the first ACSEPT International Workshop was organised last March in Lisbon, Portugal. It gave an emphasis to young researchers' contributions (two thirds of the contributions) and allowed young scientists to meet and exchange with international recognised experts.