Protactinium Production in Leading Thorium Fuel Cycles

Dr. Eva C. Uribe
senior systems research analyst at Sandia National Laboratories
FRI, 04/09/2021 - 3:00PM TO 4:00PM
SPRING 2021 Colloquium Series

Nuclear power from thorium fuel cycles is being explored around the world to extend uranium resource and to reduce the quantity of long-lived nuclear waste generated by civilian nuclear power production. Significant research and development efforts towards fuel cycles using thorium as the primary fertile material in place of uranium have occurred in India, Canada (Thorium Power), China (SINAP), Norway (ThorEnergy), the United States (Flibe, Thorcon), and elsewhere. Protactinium-233 is produced during the neutron irradiation of thorium-232 in a nuclear reactor. Protactinium-233 is a precursor to uranium-233, where uranium-233 is an accountable nuclear material under international nuclear safeguards. Currently, there are no conceptual approaches for monitoring and verifying protactinium-233 during thorium irradiation and spent fuel reprocessing. This presentation will describe a collaboration between researchers at Sandia National Laboratories and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to identify leading thorium fuel cycle candidates and to quantify protactinium production rates in those fuel cycles. Eva Uribe is an alumna of the Nuclear Science and Security Consortium, and she will also provide a brief overview of her early career since graduating from UC Berkeley.

About the Speaker:

Dr. Eva C. Uribe is a senior systems research analyst at Sandia National Laboratories. As a systems analyst, she teams across disciplines to provide unbiased and objective information and frameworks for decisionmakers to understand the risks, benefits, and unintended consequences of options within complex national security landscapes. Her current portfolio includes projects in advanced nuclear fuel cycle safeguards, spent nuclear fuel reprocessing, nuclear deterrence, nuclear nonproliferation, and cyber systems analysis. Prior to joining the laboratory in 2017, she was a Stanton Nuclear Security postdoctoral fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, where she investigated the implications of advanced spent fuel reprocessing capabilities in thorium fuel cycles on nuclear nonproliferation and the international safeguards regime. Eva graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a Ph.D. in chemistry in 2016. She conducted her graduate research as an affiliate of the Heavy Element Nuclear and Radiochemistry Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Her dissertation focused on understanding the interaction between aqueous actinide and lanthanide species and organically-modified, high-surface area mesoporous silica materials, using solid-phase nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. She also collaborated with the Goldman School of Public Policy to conduct policy analysis on the use of cross-domain deterrence in American foreign policy. Eva graduated from Yale University in 2011 with a B.S. in chemistry and a double major in political science. She was a Next Generation Safeguards Initiative intern in the Nonproliferation Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the summers of 2008 and 2009.