Decay heat is an important constraint for repository size and design because it can drive processes that affect performance and compromise critical materials. This paper investigates how compliance with repository thermal limits is affected by three decay heat management strategies: waste package loading, waste package spacing, and surface storage time. In particular, this paper focuses on how repository area, a result of package spacing, is impacted by waste loading and surface storage time. A two-part analytical heat transfer model is presented and executed iteratively to determine the minimum allowable repository area. The analysis considers three generic close-contact repository designs along with the wastes generated from the 40 fuel cycle analysis examples used to generate metric data for the Fuel Cycle Evaluation and Screening study.

Detailed results are presented for two fuel cycles: the once-through use of low-enriched uranium fuel in light water reactors and the continuous recycling of U and Pu in sodium fast reactors. Two limits for surface storage time are identified: the time required for disposal to be possible at all and the time at which further surface storage time yields no gains. The impact of waste loading is also diminished with increasing surface storage time. In general, the generic salt repository is most flexible to accept high-heat-generating wastes with less surface storage time than other repository environments. Limited-recycle fuel cycles are shown to pose a disposal challenge because of elevated, sustained decay heat generation in the waste.