What’s the best way to manage radioactive waste? SNC-Lavalin has developed a solution that can convert separated plutonium and recovered uranium stockpiles into low-carbon power for the next 60 years.
The United Kingdom is home to the world’s largest stockpile of civil plutonium. Their Department for Energy and Climate Change and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority issued a call for innovative solutions to reuse or dispose of this material. In response, we developed our CANMOX™ solution, which recycles the stockpiled waste and safely turns it into a significant source of clean power.
In 2012, the CANMOX solution was shortlisted as one of three credible options for reuse.
How it works
The CANMOX process starts by downblending the separated plutonium stockpile with depleted uranium to make mixed-oxide (MOX) pellets in a specialized fuel manufacturing plant. The pellets are then fabricated into CANFLEX® fuel bundles that are equivalent to our proven CANDU fuel. The bundles are then used by our MOX-ready Enhanced CANDU 6® (EC6®) reactors to produce energy that feeds into the power grid and could supply 5 million UK homes.
Upon completion of the plutonium mission, the additional stockpile of recovered uranium can be simply and effectively reused in a similar manner at the same fuel manufacturing plant.
How it benefits communities
Our CANMOX solution can be located in up to three separate sites, allowing for high value job creation and resulting economic benefits to multiple communities. We can even site the power reactors on a closing nuclear site, thus extending the community benefits for generations. Some 12,000 direct and supply-chain jobs would be created during the construction of a CANMOX fuel plant and MOX-ready EC6 reactors, and then another 2,400 skilled, full-time jobs would be available to operate and maintain the fuel manufacturing plant and reactors during their planned 60 years of operation.
In addition to supplying 3 GW of safe, economic, low-carbon power, the CANMOX solution also improves public safety by rendering the separated stockpiles into a safe and secure form. This will help the UK meet its nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation objectives.
How it benefits the environment
The CANMOX solution takes the potentially hazardous stockpile off the shelf and releases valuable energy in the form of reliable low emissions power. When displacing traditional coal generation, our CANDU® technology saves 13 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, or 6 million tonnes when displacing natural gas fuelled generation.
What makes it safe
The CANMOX solution includes the EC6 reactor that builds on proven technology that is already widely used around the world. Globally, there are currently 47 CANDU and CANDU-type reactors in operation. The MOX-ready EC6 design meets modern standards and the operating CANDU reactors have completed post-Fukushima stress tests.
The final form of the spent fuel from the generation of low-emissions power is a compact, low-heat fuel form suitable for long-term storage and disposal.
“We are excited about the potential to reuse legacy materials as fuel for a new generation of power plants.”
-Preston Swafford, Chief Nuclear Officer and Executive Vice-President, Nuclear, SNC-Lavalin