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Electrochemical separation of used nuclear fuel (UNF) operating at 500°C is confined within a furnace, making it difficult for a visual observation. Thus, flow characteristic predictions from the furnace are often calculated through advanced computational modeling methods. Therefore, it is necessary to develop an innovative idea, combining mechanical and chemical skill sets to design and build a transparent furnace that provides a clear visualization that can later be coupled with an optical flow-visualization method, such as Laser Doppler Anemometry (LDA). Deliverables of the project include the complete design and illustration of the prototype operating up to 500°C. Challenges of the project include available resources, limited budget and time, preventing further experimentations with a large variety of chemicals and prototype construction materials. The team began the project by researching materials and designing the prototype using CAD software. Once the experimental setup was designed, the team allocated and purchased resources, performed necessary machining, and assembled the prototype. The chemicals and prototype were then tested in the lab at high temperatures to provide a proof of concept. Finally, electrochemical experiments were performed using a ternary AgCl-LiCl-KCl salt system (0.5:44.0:55.5 wt%), resulting in a successful silver deposition on the cathode. Remaining issues include: (1) complete purging of the system to produce entirely transparent liquid chemicals in which to observe the electrochemical separation, (2) complete melting of the outer chemical bath with submersible heater and temperature controller to provide consistent, continual heating of the inner vessel, and (3) revisiting insulation challenges to prevent the inner and outer system from cooling while remaining transparent continuously. This project provides a preliminary understanding of the fundamental electrorefining model and reprocessing and recycling of UNF.

Publication Date



Mechanical and nuclear engineering, electrochemical, separation, transparent, furnace


Engineering | Mechanical Engineering | Nuclear Engineering

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Supathorn Phongikaroon

VCU Capstone Design Expo Posters


© The Author(s)

Date of Submission

August 2016

Transparent Furnace for Observing Electrochemical Separation of Used Nuclear Fuel