Recent Developments in the Purex Process for Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing: Complexant Based Stripping for Uranium/Plutonium Separation


  • J. Eddie Birkett
  • Michael J. Carrott
  • O. Danny Fox
  • Chris J. Jones
  • Chris J. Maher
  • Cécile V. Roube
  • Robin J. Taylor
  • David A. Woodhead



Acetohydroxamic acid, Actinides, Centrifugal contactors, Nuclear fuel reprocessing, Purex process


In order to recycle potentially valuable uranium and plutonium, the Purex process has been successfully used to reprocess spent nuclear fuel for several decades now at industrial scales. The process has developed over this period to treat higher burnup fuels, oxide as well as metal fuels within fewer solvent extraction cycles with reduced waste arisings. Within the context of advanced fuel cycle scenarios, there has been renewed international interest recently in separation technologies for recovering actinides from spent fuel. Aqueous fuel processing research and development has included further enhancement of the Purex process as well as the development of minor actinide partitioning technologies that use new extractants. The use of single cycle Purex solvent extraction flowsheets and centrifugal contactors are key objectives in the development of such advanced Purex processes in future closed fuel cycles. These advances lead to intensified processes, reducing the costs of plants and the volumes of wastes arising. By adopting other flowsheet changes, such as reduced fission product decontamination factors, U/Pu co-processing and Pu/Np co-stripping, further improvements can be made addressing issues such as proliferation resistance and minor actinide burning, without adverse effects on the products. One interesting development is the demonstration that simple hydroxamic acid complexants can very effectively separate U from Np and Pu in such advanced Purex flowsheets.




How to Cite

J. E. Birkett, M. J. Carrott, O. D. Fox, C. J. Jones, C. J. Maher, C. V. Roube, R. J. Taylor, D. A. Woodhead, Chimia 2005, 59, 898, DOI: 10.2533/000942905777675327.