Safeguards for Uranium Extraction (UREX) +1a Process



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As nuclear energy grows in the United States and around the world, the expansion of the nuclear fuel cycle is inevitable. All currently deployed commercial reprocessing plants are based on the Plutonium - Uranium Extraction (PUREX) process. However, this process is not implemented in the U.S. for a variety of reasons, one being that it is considered by some as a proliferation risk. The 2001 Nuclear Energy Policy report recommended that the U.S. "develop reprocessing and treatment technologies that are cleaner, more efficient, less waste-intensive, and more proliferation-resistant." The Uranium Extraction (UREX+) reprocessing technique has been developed to reach these goals. However, in order for UREX+ to be considered for commercial implementation, a safeguards approach is needed to show that a commercially sized UREX+ facility can be safeguarded to current international standards. A detailed safeguards approach for a UREX+1a reprocessing facility has been developed. The approach includes the use of nuclear material accountancy (MA), containment and surveillance (C/S) and solution monitoring (SM). Facility information was developed for a hypothesized UREX+1a plant with a throughput of 1000 Metric Tons Heavy Metal (MTHM) per year. Safeguard goals and safeguard measures to be implemented were established. Diversion and acquisition pathways were considered; however, the analysis focuses mainly on diversion paths. The detection systems used in the design have the ability to provide near real-time measurement of special fissionable material in feed, process and product streams. Advanced front-end techniques for the quantification of fissile material in spent nuclear fuel were also considered. The economic and operator costs of these systems were not considered. The analysis shows that the implementation of these techniques result in significant improvements in the ability of the safeguards system to achieve the objective of timely detection of the diversion of a significant quantity of nuclear material from the UREX+1a reprocessing facility and to provide deterrence against such diversion by early detection.