Chambers, Alex (2011-08). Multi-Recycling of Transuranic Elements in a Modified PWR Fuel Assembly. Master's Thesis. Thesis uri icon

abstract

  • The nuclear waste currently generated in the United States is stored in spent fuel pools and dry casks throughout the country awaiting a permanent disposal solution. One efficient solution would be to remove the actinides from the waste and transmute these isotopes in a fast spectrum reactor. Currently this technology is unavailable on a commercial scale and a considerable amount of research and development is still required. An alternate solution is to reprocess and recycle the used fuel in thermal reactors, creating new fuel while reducing the amount of waste and its impact to the environment. This thesis examines the possibility of multi-recycling the transuranics (Pu, Np, Am, and Cm) in a standard pressurized water reactor (PWR). Two types of recycling strategies will be examined: one where Pu, Np, and Am are recycled (TRU-Cm) and a second where the previous isotopes as well as Cm are recycled (TRU+Cm). To offset the hardened neutron spectrum that results from the inclusion of the transuranics, a smaller fuel pin is employed to provide additional moderation. Computer simulations are used to model the in-reactor physics and long-term isotopic decay. Each fuel type is assessed based on the required U-235 enrichment, void coefficient, transuranic production/destruction, and radiotoxicity reduction as compared to a UOX and MOX assembly. It is found that the most beneficial recycling strategy is the one where all of the transuranics are recycled. The inclusion of Cm reduces the required U-235 enrichment, compared to the other multi-recycled fuel and, after a significant number of recycles, can result in the required enrichment to decrease. This fuel type also maintains a negative void coefficient for each recycle. The void coefficient of the fuel type without Cm becomes positive after the third cycle. The transmutation destruction of the two multi-recycled assemblies is less than that of a MOX assembly, but the transmutation efficiency of the multi-recycled assemblies exceeds the MOX assemblies. The radiotoxicity of both multi-recycled assemblies is significantly lower than the UOX and MOX with the TRU+Cm fuel being the lowest. When Curium is recycled only 28,000 years are required for the radiotoxicity of the waste to reach that of natural Uranium and when Cm is not recycled, the amount of time increases to 57,000 years.
  • The nuclear waste currently generated in the United States is stored in spent fuel pools and dry casks throughout the country awaiting a permanent disposal solution. One efficient solution would be to remove the actinides from the waste and transmute these isotopes in a fast spectrum reactor. Currently this technology is unavailable on a commercial scale and a considerable amount of research and development is still required. An alternate solution is to reprocess and recycle the used fuel in thermal reactors, creating new fuel while reducing the amount of waste and its impact to the environment. This thesis examines the possibility of multi-recycling the transuranics (Pu, Np, Am, and Cm) in a standard pressurized water reactor (PWR). Two types of recycling strategies will be examined: one where Pu, Np, and Am are recycled (TRU-Cm) and a second where the previous isotopes as well as Cm are recycled (TRU+Cm). To offset the hardened neutron spectrum that results from the inclusion of the transuranics, a smaller fuel pin is employed to provide additional moderation.

    Computer simulations are used to model the in-reactor physics and long-term isotopic decay. Each fuel type is assessed based on the required U-235 enrichment, void coefficient, transuranic production/destruction, and radiotoxicity reduction as compared to a UOX and MOX assembly.

    It is found that the most beneficial recycling strategy is the one where all of the transuranics are recycled. The inclusion of Cm reduces the required U-235 enrichment, compared to the other multi-recycled fuel and, after a significant number of recycles, can result in the required enrichment to decrease. This fuel type also maintains a negative void coefficient for each recycle. The void coefficient of the fuel type without Cm becomes positive after the third cycle. The transmutation destruction of the two multi-recycled assemblies is less than that of a MOX assembly, but the transmutation efficiency of the multi-recycled assemblies exceeds the MOX assemblies. The radiotoxicity of both multi-recycled assemblies is significantly lower than the UOX and MOX with the TRU+Cm fuel being the lowest. When Curium is recycled only 28,000 years are required for the radiotoxicity of the waste to reach that of natural Uranium and when Cm is not recycled, the amount of time increases to 57,000 years.

publication date

  • August 2011