With world stockpiles of used nuclear fuel increasing, the need to address the long-term utilization of this resource is being studied. Many of the transuranic (TRU) actinides in nuclear spent fuel produce decay heat for long durations, resulting in significant nuclear waste management challenges. These actinides can be transmuted to shorter-lived isotopes to reduce the decay heat period or consumed as fuel in a CANDU® reactor. Many of the design features of the CANDU reactor make it uniquely adaptable to actinide transmutation. The small, simple fuel bundle simplifies the fabrication and handling of active fuels. Online refuelling allows precise management of core reactivity and separate insertion of the actinides and fuel bundles into the core. The high neutron economy of the CANDU reactor results in high TRU destruction to fissile-loading ratio. This paper provides a summary of actinide transmutation schemes that have been studied in CANDU reactors at AECL, including the works performed in the past [1–4]. The schemes studied include homogeneous scenarios in which actinides are uniformly distributed in all fuel bundles in the reactor, as well as heterogeneous scenarios in which dedicated channels in the reactor are loaded with actinide targets and the rest of the reactor is loaded with fuel. The transmutation schemes that are presented reflect several different partitioning schemes. Separation of americium, often with curium, from the other actinides enables targeted destruction of americium, which is a main contributor to the decay heat 100 to 1000 years after discharge from the reactor. Another scheme is group-extracted transuranic elements, in which all of the transuranic elements, plutonium (Pu), neptunium (Np), americium (Am), and curium (Cm) are extracted together and then transmuted. This paper also addresses ways of utilizing the recycled uranium, another stream from the separation of spent nuclear fuel, in order to drive the transmutation of other actinides.
- Nuclear Engineering Division
Scenarios for the Transmutation of Actinides in CANDU Reactors
Hyland, B, & Gihm, B. "Scenarios for the Transmutation of Actinides in CANDU Reactors." Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Nuclear Engineering. 18th International Conference on Nuclear Engineering: Volume 1. Xi’an, China. May 17–21, 2010. pp. 533-543. ASME. https://doi.org/10.1115/ICONE18-30123
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