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Incineration of Light Water Reactor Waste in High-Temperature Gas Reactors: Axial Fuel Management and Efficiency of Americium and Curium Transmutation

Alberto Talamo, Waclaw Gudowski

Nuclear Science and Engineering / Volume 156 / Number 2 / June 2007 / Pages 244-266

Technical Note /

In the present study we investigate the influence of the fuel axial shuffling and the operational control rod maneuvering on the performances of the one-pass (no reprocessing) deep-burn incineration of light water reactor waste in the gas turbine-modular helium reactor. After an irradiation period, the fuel axial shuffling schedule has to take into account the fuel depletion profile generated by the adjustments of the position of the operational control rods, because the insertion of the rods strongly alters the neutron flux shape. We aimed at implementing a numerical simulation as close as possible to a real scenario and therefore took advantage of the powerful geometrical modeling capability of the MCB code to describe the reactor in a detailed three-dimensional geometry model in which we simulated over 120 different burnable materials, each of them undergoing a different neutron flux intensity. We adjusted the position of the control rods every 90 effective full-power days of irradiation to maintain the core as close as possible to the critical condition; thereafter, we recalculated the neutron flux and cross sections by a new MCNP/MCB run. At the present time, this sophisticated approach can be realized only by a computer cluster of ten 64-bit processors working in parallel mode.

The fuel axial shuffling adds from 3 to 5% to the transmutation rates of 239Pu, plutonium, and all actinides, which range from 80 to 86, 50 to 53, and 46 to 48%, respectively; the present results are 5 to 14% less compared to the case of a two-pass (reprocessing) deep burn. The efficiency of transmuting minor actinides has been estimated by comparing the long-term radio-toxicity of the fresh and irradiated americium and curium fuel; this comparison revealed that it is not worthwhile to transmute americium and curium in the current design of the gas turbine-modular helium reactor by a one-pass deep burn.

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