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Reactivity Loss Validation of High-Burnup PWR Fuels with Pile-Oscillation Experiments in MINERVE

P. Leconte, C. Vaglio-Gaudard, R. Eschbach, M. Antony, J. Di-Salvo, A. Pépino

Nuclear Science and Engineering

Volume 175 / Number 3 / November 2013 / Pages 308-317


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The ALIX experimental program relies on the experimental validation of the spent fuel inventory, by chemical analysis of samples irradiated in a pressurized water reactor (PWR) between five and seven cycles, and also on the experimental validation of the spent fuel reactivity loss with burnup, obtained by pile-oscillation measurements in the MINERVE reactor. These latter experiments provide an overall validation of both the fuel inventory and the nuclear data responsible for the reactivity loss. This program also offers unique experimental data for fuels with a burnup reaching 85 GWd/tonne, as spent fuels in French PWRs have never exceeded 70 GWd/tonne up to now.

The analysis of these experiments is done in two steps with the APOLLO2/SHEM-MOC/CEA2005v4 package. In the first step, the fuel inventory of each sample is obtained by assembly calculations. The calculation route consists of the self-shielding of cross sections on the 281-energy-group SHEM mesh, followed by flux calculation by the method of characteristics in a two-dimensional exact heterogeneous geometry of the assembly, and finally a depletion calculation by an iterative resolution of the Bateman equations. In the second step, the fuel inventory is used in the analysis of pile-oscillation experiments in which the reactivity of the ALIX spent fuel samples is compared to the reactivity of fresh fuel samples. The comparison between experiment and calculation shows satisfactory results with the JEFF3.1.1 library, which predicts the reactivity loss within 2% for burnup of ~75 GWd/tonne and within 4% for burnup of ~85 GWd/tonne.

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