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Impact of Advanced Fuel Cycles on Geological Disposal

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 February 2011

Jan Marivoet
Affiliation:
Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK•CEN, Institute Environment, Health and Safety, B-2400 Mol, Belgium
Eef Weetjens
Affiliation:
Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK•CEN, Institute Environment, Health and Safety, B-2400 Mol, Belgium
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Abstract

In recent years the increasing oil prices and the need for carbon-free energy to limit global warming have resulted in a revival of interests in nuclear energy. Advanced nuclear fuel cycles are being studied worldwide. They aim at making more efficient use of the available resources, reducing the risk of proliferation of nuclear weapons, and facilitating the management of the resulting radioactive waste. Recently, the Red-Impact project has investigated the impact of a number of representative advanced fuel cycles on radioactive waste management, and more specific on geological disposal. The thermal output of the high-level waste arising from advanced fuel cycles in which all the actinides are recycled is reduced with a factor 3 for a 50 years cooling time and with a factor 5 for a 100 years cooling time in comparison with the spent fuel arising from the once-through fuel cycle. This reduction of the thermal output allows for a significant reduction of the length of the disposal galleries and of the size of the repository. Separation of Cs and Sr drastically reduces further the thermal output of the high-level waste, but it requires a long-term management of those heat generating separated waste streams, which contain the very long-lived 135Cs. Recycling all the actinides strongly reduces the radiotoxicity in the waste, resulting in significantly lower doses to an intruder in the case of a human intrusion into the repository. However, the reduction of radiotoxicity has little impact on the main safety indicator of a geological repository, i.e. the effective dose in the case of the expected evolution scenario; for disposal in clay formations, this dose is essentially due to mobile fission and activation products. The deployment of advanced fuel cycles will necessitate the development of low activation materials for the new nuclear facilities and fuels and of specific waste matrices to condition the high-level and medium-level waste streams that will arise from the advanced reprocessing plants.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Materials Research Society 2009

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