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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 material processing and characterization, and radioisotope production.

IFCTD’s ability to address the nuclear technology needs is further strengthened by expertise in radiation detection and imaging, and enrichment science and engineering.

The nuclear security portfolio within the division is focused on expanding the national capabilities in radiation detection and nuclear forensics. Stable isotope production is centered on reestablishing enrichment capabilities to make this critical resource more readily available for domestic needs. 

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 the product involve ongoing science and technology development to assure efficient delivery of high-purity product that can meet industrial, medical, and national security needs.

IFCTD’s 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 7 groups composed of experienced and professional staff; state-of-the-art equipment and instrumentation; and integrated focus on programs and projects of national importance. It 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.