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Isotope and Fuel Cycle Technology

We reach around the world with nuclear expertise

The Isotope and Fuel Cycle Technology Division (IFCTD) is built on ORNL’s historic expertise in nuclear fuel cycle research and development (R&D), nuclear materials processing and characterization, radioisotope production.  In addition, the IFCTD is engaged in nuclear security missions through its expertise in radiation detection and imaging, material and facility protection, material control and accounting, analytic chemistry, systems integration, and safeguards and export control policy implementation. Modeling and simulation is being increasingly used to support both the nuclear security and isotope missions.

The nuclear security portfolio within the division is focused on research, development, and deployment of technology that enhances nuclear nonproliferation and safeguards, reduces threats to nuclear material and facilities at risk, expands the national capabilities in radiation detection and nuclear forensics.

The division collaborates across the laboratory to provide science, technology, and mission support to nuclear security sponsors: National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, and other government agencies.

The radioisotope portfolio relies heavily on the High Flux Isotope Reactor and the shielded hot cells and glove box laboratories within ORNL’s nuclear and radiological facilities. Feedstock processing, target design and fabrication, safety assessments, target disassembly, and radiochemical science and engineering to purify products involve ongoing science and technology development to assure efficient delivery of high-purity product that can meet industrial, medical, and national security needs.

The IFCTD signature capabilities in radiochemical science and engineering and isotope enrichment science and engineering continue to be relied upon to help advance and innovate the nuclear energy fuel cycle through improvements in used fuel recycling technologies, uranium enrichment designs, and modern technologies for enrichment of stable and radioisotopes.

The division consists of 6 groups composed of experienced and professional staff; state-of-the-art equipment and instrumentation; and an integrated focus on programs and projects of national importance.

Core capabilities of the division staff include engineering, chemistry and radiochemistry, physics, computational analysts and software developers, radiochemical technicians, and technical and business support professionals. IFCTD collaborates with other organizations, both internal and external, to build stronger teams and achieve maximum success.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists have automated part of the process of producing plutonium-238, which is used by NASA to fuel deep space exploration. Resolving this key bottleneck will help boost annual production of the radioisotope towards NASA’s goal of 1.5 kilograms of Pu-238 per year by 2025.