What is REFINE?
A coordinated UK research programme delivering the materials science required for sustainable spent fuel reduction in a closed loop nuclear energy cycle. This multidisciplinary programme will deliver the critical research team and the platform technologies to enable scientific advance in related molten salt application areas together with the underpinning process development and training essential to establish and deliver these objectives.
The Need for REFINE
Nuclear fission currently has global recognition as a key low carbon energy source, vital in the fight against global warming. For example, the Research Councils UK (RCUK) energy programme has identified nuclear fission as an essential part of the "trinity" of future fuel options for the UK, alongside renewables and clean coal. In order to deliver safe, reliable, economic and sustainable nuclear energy on the scale required in both the short and long term, large international programmes of work are underway to develop Gen III+ & Gen IV reactor systems. This has led to a pressing worldwide need for research to develop specific sustainable spent fuel reprocessing technoloies suitable for minimizing waste from these new reactors, as well as for dealing with legacy waste fuel from old reactors.
Members of the Consortium
The REFINE consortium is led by the University of Edinburgh and includes the Universities of Edinburgh, Cambridge, Manchester, Nottingham and University College London, in partnership with the UK National Nuclear Laboratory.
The programme will focus on the fundamental research, understanding and essential systems required to produce a viable MS spent fuel treatment facility. It consists of an integrated programme of 3 workpackages (WPs), each addressing a key theme with its identified global and specific objectives.
- Direct Electrochemical Reduction (DR): Understanding and controlling interactions in MSs, forming solid state materials cleanly and efficiently, specifically electroactive materials for enhanced electrochemical separation in the electrorefiner
- Electrorefining & Speciation (ES): Specific solid state materials production by dissolution and deposition of selected species with controlled composition and morphology, specifically ensuring proliferation resistance. Dissolution of stable materials, specifically Gen IV fuels (ceramic, nitride and carbide fuels) and production and characterisation of the MS soluble species
- Analysis (AN): Establishment of molten salt analysis techniques, specifically the in-line sensing technology required for PR systems with modelling to understand molten salt materials processes