Nuclear Technology / Volume 179 / Number 2 / August 2012 / Pages 180-188
Technical Paper / Reactor Safety
Spent nuclear fuel transported in large casks must remain subcritical in all credible configurations for normal operation and hypothetical accident conditions. The effects on spent nuclear fuel reactivity from "worst-case" accident scenarios were surveyed in NUREG/CR-6835, "Effects of Fuel Failure on Criticality Safety and Radiation Dose for Spent Fuel Casks." The survey used scenarios that were postulated to provide theoretical upper limits for reactivity effects of fuel relocation, although they were described as going "beyond credible conditions." These scenarios involved physical changes either to fuel assembly rod arrays or to collections of fuel pellets with the fuel skeleton removed. To provide more credible estimates of the probability and maximum reactivity changes, a process is presented that deconstructs each scenario into a set of subscenarios and identifies the physical phenomena required to create the subscenario. The boundary between credible but unlikely scenarios and incredible scenarios is more easily discernible with this process.
For marginally credible worst-case scenarios, it is concluded that the maximum reasonable reactivity increase either is less than the mandated administrative nuclear criticality safety margin for scenarios involving physical changes to fuel assembly rod arrays or is a substantial reactivity decrease for scenarios involving collections of fuel pellets. A cask designer could apply scenario deconstruction to evaluate the physical limits that apply to a particular transportation cask, and perform calculations specific to a particular cask design to show that criticality safety requirements are met.