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Separations and Transmutation Criteria to Improve Utilization of a Geologic Repository

Roald A. Wigeland, Theodore H. Bauer, Thomas H. Fanning, Edgar E. Morris

Nuclear Technology

Volume 154 / Number 1 / April 2006 / Pages 95-106


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This paper describes the results of a study that uses the thermal performance of the repository to establish chemical separations and transmutation criteria for commercial spent nuclear fuel of benefit to a geologic repository, as measured by the allowable increase in utilization of repository space. The method for determining the chemical elements to be separated is based on the thermal performance of the repository. The important chemical elements are identified, the order of importance of the separated elements is established, and the relationship between the efficiency of the chemical separation and the resulting increase in utilization is determined. The proposed repository at Yucca Mountain is used as an example of a geologic repository for the purposes of illustrating the magnitude of the benefits that are possible and the implications for repository size and operation. This work is being done in support of the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, where numerous reactor, processing, and recycling strategies are being examined to determine the impact on issues important to the viability of nuclear electricity generation, including the disposal of spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste.

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