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Investigation of the Effect of Fixed Absorbers on the Reactivity of PWR Spent Nuclear Fuel for Burnup Credit

John C. Wagner, Charlotta E. Sanders

Nuclear Technology

Volume 139 / Number 2 / August 2002 / Pages 91-126


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The effect of fixed absorbers on the reactivity of pressurized water reactor (PWR) spent nuclear fuel (SNF) in support of burnup-credit criticality safety analyses is examined. A fuel assembly burned in conjunction with fixed absorbers may have a higher reactivity for a given burnup than an assembly that has not used fixed absorbers. As a result, guidance on burnup credit, issued by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Spent Fuel Project Office, recommends restricting the use of burnup credit to assemblies that have not used burnable absorbers. This recommendation eliminates a large portion of the currently discharged SNF from loading in burnup credit casks and thus severely limits the practical usefulness of burnup credit. Therefore, data are needed to support the extension of burnup credit to additional SNF. This research investigates the effect of various fixed absorbers, including integral burnable absorbers, burnable poison rods, control rods, and axial power shaping rods, on the reactivity of PWR SNF. Trends in reactivity with relevant parameters (e.g., initial fuel enrichment, burnup and absorber type, exposure, and design) are established, and anticipated reactivity effects are quantified. Where appropriate, recommendations are offered for addressing the reactivity effects of the fixed absorbers in burnup-credit safety analyses.

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