The invention is a nonaqueous, single method for processing multiple spent nuclear fuel types by separating the fission- and transuranic products from the nonradioactive and fissile uranium product. The invention has four major operations: exposing the spent fuels to chlorine gas at temperatures preferably greater than 1200.degree. C. to form volatile metal chlorides; removal of the fission product chlorides, transuranic product chlorides, and any nickel chloride and chromium chloride in a molten salt scrubber at approximately 400.degree. C.; fractional condensation of the remaining volatile chlorides at temperatures ranging from 164.degree. C. to 2.degree. C.; and regeneration and recovery of the transferred spent molten salt by vacuum distillation. The residual fission products, transuranic products, and nickel- and chromium chlorides are converted to fluorides or oxides for vitrification. The method offers the significant advantages of a single, compact process that is applicable to most of the diverse nuclear fuels, minimizes secondary wastes, segregates fissile uranium from the high level wastes to resolve potential criticality concerns, segregates nonradioactive wastes from the high level wastes for volume reduction, and produces a common waste form glass or glass-ceramic.
CONTRACTURAL ORIGIN OF THE INVENTION
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. DE-AC07-94ID13223 between the U.S. Department of Energy and Lockheed Idaho Technologies Company.