Fission Product Impact Reduction Via Protracted In-Core Retention in Very High Temperature Reactor (VHTR) Transmutation Scenarios


The closure of the nuclear fuel cycle is a topic of interest in the sustainability context of nuclear energy. The implication of such closure includes considerations of nuclear waste management. This originates from the fact that a closed fuel cycle requires recycling of useful materials from spent nuclear fuel and discarding of non-usable streams of the spent fuel, which are predominantly the fission products. The fission products represent the near-term concerns associated with final geological repositories for the waste stream. Long-lived fission products also contribute to the long-term concerns associated with such repository. In addition, an ultimately closed nuclear fuel cycle in which all actinides from spent nuclear fuels are incinerated will result in fission products being the only source of radiotoxicity. Hence, it is desired to develop a transmutation strategy that will achieve reduction in the inventory and radiological parameters of significant fission products within a reasonably short time. In this dissertation, a transmutation strategy involving the use of the VHTR is developed. A set of specialized metrics is developed and applied to evaluate performance characteristics. The transmutation strategy considers six major fission products: 90Sr, 93Zr, 99Tc, 129I, 135Cs and 137Cs. In this approach, the unique core features of VHTRs operating in equilibrium fuel cycle mode of 405 effective full power days are used for transmutation of the selected fission products. A 30 year irradiation period with 10 post-irradiation cooling is assumed. The strategy assumes no separation of each nuclide from its corresponding material stream in the VHTR fuel cycle. The optimum locations in the VHTR core cavity leading to maximized transmutation of each selected nuclides are determined. The fission product transmutation scenarios are simulated with MCNP and ORIGEN-S. The results indicate that the developed fission product transmutation strategy offers an excellent potential approach for the reduction of inventories and radiological parameters, particularly for long-lived fission products (93Zr, 99Tc, 129I and 135Cs). It has been determined that the in-core transmutation of relatively short-lived fission products (90Sr and 137Cs) has minimal advantage over a decay-only scenario for these nuclides. It is concluded that the developed strategy is a viable option for the reduction of radiotoxicity contributions of the selected fission products prior to their final disposal in a geological repository. Even in the cases where the transmutation advantage is minimal, it is deemed that the improvement gained, coupled with the virtual storage provided for the fission products during the irradiation period, makes the developed fission product transmutation strategy advantageous in the spent fuel management scenarios. Combined with the in-core incineration options for TRU, the developed transmutation strategy leads to potential achievability of engineering time scales in the comprehensive nuclear waste management.


Mining and Nuclear Engineering



Keywords and Phrases

Fission Product; Transmutation; VHTR; Very High Temperature Reactor; Advanced Reactor; Nuclear Fuel Cycle; Spent Nuclear Fuel; TRU; Incineration; Equilibrium Cycle

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