b'P ROVING THE P RINCIPLEsaging the accident at Chernobyl later Like all other reactor fuels, the IFR fuel remained in the cadmium and salt.that month; and in the second, the heat generated fission and activation prod- Thus separated, the uranium and pluto-exchange between the reactor core and ucts, the latter of which included pluto- nium could be recast into new fuel pinsthe electrical generator would cease, as nium, americium, and the other and sent back to the reactor to generatehad happened at TMI. long-lived TRU elements. These ele- more electricity. The rest was waste,ments required isolation from the envi-As the experiment began the reactor was ronment for centuries, and these wereat full power. The pumps then shut the ones to be recycled as IFR fuel. Bydown. Till and the others eyed the contrast, the most dangerously ener-gauges. The temperature in the reactor getic fission products would decay toshot straight up, not a pretty sight to harmless levels within a few hundredanyone whos had anything to do with a years.reac o r, observed Till later. But the tem- tperature spiked quickly, and within a Recycling was to be done within thefew minutes the reactors power dropped same doughnut-shaped arg o n-a t m os -to zero. The temperature returned to nor- phere cell next door to EBR-II wheremal. The IFR operators, meanwhile, Ar gonne had re-cast uranium metalstood back, their hands in the air, so to fuel in the 1960s. The recipe beganspeak, disengaged from the controls. with chopping up the fuel and dissolv-Neither they nor an emergency core ing it in a solution of cadmium andcooling system had been necessary for molten salt. Upon applying an electricthe reactor to recover safely all by current through the material, the pluto- Argonne National Laboratory-West 15455 i ts e l f . 3 nium and uranium (and other TRU ele- Above. Using a glovebox, a technician perf or ms a qualityments and some fission products) assurance check on a new IFR fuel pin. Below. TheIt worked on the blackboard, it worked accumulated on collector electrodes. exterior shape of the Fuel Cycle Facility reflects thein computer simulations, and the engi- The rest of the fission products c i rcular arc hit e c t u re of the argo n- a t m o s p h e re laboratory.neers were willing to bet their lives thatit would work in practice, wrote anadmiring reporter of the demonstration.The implications for a commercial reac-tor were good: an IFR would need lessreliance on emergency power and corecooling accessories, reducing the capitalcost of the plant. Afew environmentalor ganizations took notice of the IFR. Aspokeswoman for the Audubon Societysaid that she supported the developmentof solar energy as the best way to savethe planet from fossil fuel heat contami-nation, but she also favored testingthese so-called idiot-proof reactors. 4The Argonne team now could move onto prove the next principle: that the IFRcould solve the nuclear waste problem.Argonne National Laboratory-West Q12088236'