This paper reviews the membrane processes for the nuclear fusion fuel cycle—namely, the treatment of the plasma exhaust gases and the extraction of tritium from the breeding blankets. With respect to the traditional processes, the application of membrane reactors to the fusion fuel cycle reduces the tritium inventory and processing time, thus increasing the safety and availability of the system. As an example, self-supported Pd-alloy membrane tubes have been studied for the separation of hydrogen and its isotopes from both gas- and liquid-tritiated streams through water-gas shift and isotopic swamping reactions. Furthermore, this paper describes an innovative membrane system (Membrane Gas–Liquid Contactor) for the extraction of hydrogen isotopes from liquid LiPb blankets. Porous membranes are exposed to the liquid metal that penetrates the pores without passing through them, then realizing a gas–liquid interface through which the mass transfer of hydrogen isotopes takes place. Compared to the conventional hydrogen isotope extraction processes from LiPb that use the “permeator against vacuum” concept, the proposed process significantly reduces mass-transfer resistance by improving the efficiency of the tritium recovery system.
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