ENGINEERING DEVELOPMENT OF THE MOLTEN SALT BREEDER REACTOR FUEL RECYCLE
M. E. WHATLEY, L. E. McNEESE, W. L. CARTER,
L. M. FERRIS, and E. L. NICHOLSON
Chemical Technology Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory,
Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37830
October 13, 1969
The molten-salt breeder reactor being developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) requires continuous chemical processing of the fuel salt, 1LiF-BeF2-ThF4 (72-16-12 mole%) containing 0.3 mole% 233UF4• The reactor and the processing plant are planned as an integral system. The main junctions of the processing plant will be to isolate 233 Pa from the neutron flux and to remove the rare-earth fission products.
The processing method being developed involves the selective chemical reduction of the various components into liquid bismuth solutions at 600°C, utilizing multistage counter-current extraction. Protactinium, which is easily separated from uranium, thorium, and the rare earths, would be trapped in the salt phase in a storage tank located between two extraction contactors and allowed to decay to 233 U. Rare earths would be separated from thorium by a similar reductive extraction method; however, this operation will not be as simple as the protactinium isolation step because the rare-earth-thorium separation factors are only 1.3 to 3.5. The proposed process would employ electrolytic cells to simultaneously introduce reductant into the bismuth phase at the cathode and to return extracted materials to the salt phase at the anode. The practicability of the reductive extraction process depends on the successful development of salt-metal contactors, electrolytic cells, and suitable materials of construction.