Novel nuclear fuel cycles

Used nuclear fuel is one of the main concerns when discussing the use of nuclear power in the future. Worldwide there are several options how to handle this waste. The most common option is to take the waste as it is (after interim storage) and place it in a deep geological repository. Another option which is currently used in France and the UK is to recover the plutonium from the used fuel and recycle it into new mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. By doing this the energy usage of the fuel increase from about 1% to 1.35%. Today this recycling is only done once. A third option is to combine the previously mentioned recycling of plutonium with a recycling of also neptunium, americium and curium. If this is made properly the energy usage of the fuel could be increased about 100 times while both the final repository's size and demands could be lessened, the latter due to a decreased radio toxicity of the waste.
To obtain these nice effects that the separation and transmutation option offer, at least three things are needed: A nuclear reactor operating with fast neutrons, a separation of the desired elements from the rest of the waste, and finally, a fabrication route for the new nuclear fuel based on the uranium, plutonium and the minor actinides. Two of the areas are in focus for the research of our group; the separation and the fuel fabrication.

Published: Tue 19 Mar 2013. Modified: Thu 19 Dec 2013