In 2015, Office of Nuclear Energy of the U.S. Department of Energy established a research and development project at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to evaluate the process control capability to produce a specific uranium/plutonium product from used commercial nuclear fuel using an aqueous co-decontamination separations process. The process is controlled using on-line instrumentation supported by a dynamic process model. The new program is called the CoDCon project.
The result of the study will be a quantitative measure of the current capability to produce a specific U/Pu product, using U-IV to reduce plutonium to Pu-III and prepare a mixed product, the composition predicted by a dynamic model, measured with on-line instrumentation and controlled by the adjustment of process variables. This approach would be an alternative to the use of the PUREX aqueous separations process that produces separate plutonium and uranium products that are later blended to prepare the desired mixture. Since plutonium is always accompanied by uranium, the project will provide a safeguards-by-design tool for possible use in future commercial separations plant designs. The effectiveness of the design tool will be quantified using a methodology published by B. Cipiti, et al1.
The paper describes the process and the control system used by the project and provides details on the current status of the research and development program. Since this advanced process control system may have international applications, arrangements will be described for possible foreign participation in the project.