Nuclear Technology / Volume 149 / Number 3 / March 2005 / Pages 281-303
Technical Paper / Fuel Cycle and Management
A new COmbined NonFertile and Uranium (CONFU) fuel assembly is proposed to limit the actinides that need long-term high-level waste storage from the pressurized water reactor (PWR) fuel cycle. In the CONFU assembly concept, ~20% of the UO2 fuel pins are replaced with fertile free fuel hosting the transuranic elements (TRUs) generated in the previous cycle. This leads to a fuel cycle sustainable with respect to net TRU generation, and the amount and radiotoxicity of the nuclear waste can be significantly reduced in comparison with the conventional once-through UO2 fuel cycle. It is shown that under the constraints of acceptable power peaking limits, the CONFU assembly exhibits negative reactivity feedback coefficients comparable in values to those of the reference UO2 fuel. Feasibility of the PWR core operation and control with complete TRU recycle has been shown based on full-core three-dimensional neutronic simulation. However, gradual buildup of small amounts of Cm and Cf challenges fuel reprocessing and fabrication due to the high spontaneous fission rates of these nuclides and heat generation by some Pu, Am, and Cm isotopes. Feasibility of the processing steps becomes more attainable if the time between discharge and reprocessing is 20 yr or longer.