10 CFR Appendix I to Part 110, Illustrative List of Reprocessing Plant Components Under NRC Export Licensing Authority
Reprocessing irradiated nuclear fuel separates plutonium and uranium from intensely radioactive fission products and other transuranic elements. Different technical processes can accomplish this separation. However, over the years Purex has become the most commonly used and accepted process. Purex involves the dissolution of irradiated nuclear fuel in nitric acid, followed by separation of the uranium, plutonium, and fission products by solvent extraction using a mixture of tributyl phosphate in an organic diluent.
Purex facilities have process functions similar to each other, including: Irradiated fuel element chopping, fuel dissolution, solvent extraction, and process liquor storage. There may also be equipment for thermal denitration of uranium nitrate, conversion of plutonium nitrate to oxide metal, and treatment of fission product waste liquor to a form suitable for long term storage or disposal. However, the specific type and configuration of the equipment performing these functions may differ between Purex facilities for several reasons, including the type and quantity of irradiated nuclear fuel to be reprocessed and the intended disposition of the recovered materials, and the safety and maintenance philosophy incorporated into the design of the facility. A plant for the reprocessing of irradiated fuel elements includes the equipment and components which normally come in direct contact with and directly control the irradiated fuel and the major nuclear material and fission product processing streams.
(1) Irradiated fuel element chopping machines.
Remotely operated equipment especially designed or prepared for use in a reprocessing plant and intended to cut, chop, or shear irradiated nuclear fuel assemblies, bundles, or rods. This equipment breaches the cladding of the fuel to expose the irradiated nuclear material to dissolution. Especially designed metal cutting shears are the most commonly employed, although advanced equipment, such as lasers, may be used.
Critically safe tanks (e.g., small diameter, annular, or slab tanks) especially designed or prepared for use in a reprocessing plant, intended for dissolution of irradiated nuclear fuel and which are capable of withstanding hot, highly corrosive liquid, and which can be remotely loaded and maintained.
Dissolvers normally receive the chopped-up spent fuel. In these critically safe vessels, the irradiated nuclear material is dissolved in nitric acid and the remaining hulls removed from the process stream.
(3) Solvent extractors and solvent extraction equipment.
Especially designed or prepared solvent extractors such as packed or pulse columns, mixer settlers, or centrifugal contactors for use in a plant for the reprocessing of irradiated fuel. Solvent extractors must be resistant to the corrosive effect of nitric acid. Solvent extractors are normally fabricated to extremely high standards (including special welding and inspection and quality assurance and quality control techniques) out of low carbon stainless steels, titanium, zirconium, or other high quality materials.
Solvent extractors both receive the solution of irradiated fuel from the dissolvers and the organic solution which separates the uranium, plutonium, and fission products. Solvent extraction equipment is normally designed to meet strict operating parameters, such as long operating lifetimes with no maintenance requirements or adaptability to easy replacement, simplicity of operation and control, and flexibility for variations in process conditions.
(4) Chemical holding or storage vessels.
Especially designed or prepared holding or storage vessels for use in a plant for the reprocessing of irradiated fuel. The holding or storage vessels must be resistant to the corrosive effect of nitric acid. The holding or storage vessels are normally fabricated of materials such as low carbon stainless steels, titanium or zirconium, or other high quality materials. Holding or storage vessels may be designed for remote operation and maintenance and may have the following features for control of nuclear criticality:
(i) Walls or internal structures with a boron equivalent of at least 2 percent, or
(ii) A maximum diameter of 175 mm (7 in) for cylindrical vessels, or
(iii) A maximum width of 75 mm (3 in) for either a slab or annular vessel.
(5) Neutron measurement systems for process control.
Neutron measurement systems especially designed or prepared for integration and use with automated process control systems in a plant for the reprocessing of irradiated fuel elements. These systems involve the capability of active and passive neutron measurement and discrimination in order to determine the fissile material quantity and composition. The complete system is composed of a neutron generator, a neutron detector, amplifiers, and signal processing electronics.
The scope of this entry does not include neutron detection and measurement instruments that are designed for nuclear material accountancy and safeguarding or any other application not related to integration and use with automated process control systems in a plant for the reprocessing of irradiated fuel elements.
(6) Plutonium nitrate to plutonium oxide conversion systems. Complete systems especially designed or prepared for the conversion of plutonium nitrate to plutonium oxide, in particular adapted so as to avoid criticality and radiation effects and to minimize toxicity hazards.
(7) Plutonium metal production systems. Complete systems especially designed or prepared for the production of plutonium metal, in particular adapted so as to avoid criticality and radiation effects and to minimize toxicity hazards.
(8) Process control instrumentation specially designed or prepared for monitoring or controlling the processing of material in a reprocessing plant.
(9) Any other components especially designed or prepared for use in a reprocessing plant or in any of the components described in this appendix.