IMSR developer partners with ANSTO on waste treatment technology

03 February 2022

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and Terrestrial Energy are to explore ANSTO's Synroc proprietary waste treatment technology for used fuel management from the operation of Terrestrial's Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR).

ANSTO's vision for the Synroc facility at Lucas Heights (Image: ANSTO)

ANSTO is to provide technical consulting services to Canada-based Terrestrial Energy for the conditioning of used reactor fuel from the operation of IMSR heat and power plants in Canada, the UK, USA and other global markets.

Synroc - "synthetic rock" - is an Australian innovation for the storage of complex intermediate and high-level radioactive waste developed by ANSTO, based on crystalline or mineral phases that have survived in natural geological environments at elevated temperatures in the presence of water for hundreds of millions of years.

ANSTO's waste treatment technology delivers a tailored wasteform chemistry with associated process technology, which can safely and securely accommodate a broad range of wasteforms that meet international requirements for long-term disposal of used reactor fuel, Terrestrial Energy said. The technology also significantly reduces the volume of waste for disposal, lowering long-term lifecycle costs.

Simon Irish, CEO of Terrestrial Energy, said Synroc waste treatment technology delivers the safety and security standards for used fuel that are expected and demanded by both the public and regulators. "In many ways, this technology completes the IMSR's fuel cycle, from rock to clean energy production, and back to rock again," he said.

ANSTO began construction in 2018 of a Synroc waste treatment plant to process the intermediate-level liquid waste from nuclear medicine production from its molybdenum-99 production facility at Lucas Heights, near Sydney. The development of the ANSTO Synroc Facility is funded by the Australian Government.

"ANSTO Synroc's team has substantial experience in developing and progressing solutions for used fuel streams, and we are excited to share the benefits of this new Synroc innovation with Terrestrial Energy," said Gerry Triani, Synroc technical director at ANSTO.

"Terrestrial Energy's used fuel management program has similarities to the ANSTO Synroc Radioactive Waste Treatment Facility, which will treat the liquid waste from radiopharmaceutical production."

Terrestrial Energy's IMSR uses molten salt as both fuel and coolant, with integrated components, that can supply heat directly to industrial facilities or use it to generate electrical power. Terrestrial Energy aims to commission the first power plants based on the small modular reactor within a decade.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News