A method for the separation of the rare-earth fission product poisons comprising providing a spent nuclear fuel. The spent nuclear fuel comprises UO.sub.2 and rare-earth oxides, preferably Sm, Gd, Nd, Eu oxides, with other elements depending on the fuel composition. Preferably, the provided nuclear fuel is a powder, preferably formed by crushing the nuclear fuel or using one or more oxidation-reduction cycles. A compound comprising Th or Zr, preferably metal, is provided. The provided nuclear fuel is mixed with the Th or Zr, thereby creating a mixture. The mixture is then heated to a temperature sufficient to reduce the UO.sub.2 in the nuclear fuel, preferably to at least to 850.degree. C. for Th and up to 600.degree. C. for Zr. Rare-earth metals are then extracted to form the heated mixture thereby producing a treated nuclear fuel. The treated nuclear fuel comprises the provided nuclear fuel having a significant reduction in rare-earths.