Nuclear Waste : Oklo and partners work to commercialise reactor fuel recycling

Nuclear power plant with summer field.
© TTstudio -

Oklo Inc., a US start-up, aims to build micro nuclear-reactors that use spent fuel from conventional reactors. Those fast reactors should power large companies, industrial sites or even college campuses and remote locations.

Now the Oklo has been awarded a $5 million cost-share project in partnership with Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne), Idaho National Laboratory (INL), and Deep Isolation from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The project is funded under the ARPA-E Optimizing Nuclear Waste and Advanced Reactor Disposal Systems (ONWARDS) program, the first focused program working to identify transformative pathways to reduce waste material and minimize the need for disposal sites.

Oklo’s selection for three competitive DOE awards for recycling exemplifies Oklo’s leadership in advanced fuel recycling, the start-up stated. Together, the projects include process improvements through advanced sensors, advances using machine learning and digital twin modeling, and culminating in this ONWARDS project which will demonstrate the end-to-end recycling process and result in the technical basis for the commercial recycling facility.

“The ONWARDS project will build on our other DOE project work to allow Oklo to build a first-of-a-kind fuel recycling facility,” said Jacob DeWitte, co-founder and CEO of Oklo. The fuel recycling facility will enable Oklo to convert nuclear waste from existing used nuclear fuel into clean energy, as well as to recycle fuel from Oklo’s plants, allowing for a dramatic cost reduction and solving for a key supply chain need.

“A commercial-scale fuel recycling facility will change the economic paradigm for advanced fission,” added DeWitte. These investments in the infrastructure of advanced fission by the DOE will enable a cleaner and more secure energy future for the country.