An optimization methodology for heterogeneous minor actinides transmutation

Abstract : In the case of a closed fuel cycle, minor actinides transmutation can lead to a strong reduction in spent fuel radiotoxicity and decay heat. In the heterogeneous approach, minor actinides are loaded in dedicated targets located at the core periphery so that long-lived minor actinides undergo fission and are turned in shorter-lived fission products. However, such targets require a specific design process due to high helium production in the fuel, high flux gradient at the core periphery and low power production. Additionally, the targets are generally manufactured with a high content in minor actinides in order to compensate for the low flux level at the core periphery. This leads to negative impacts on the fuel cycle in terms of neutron source and decay heat of the irradiated targets, which penalize their handling and reprocessing. In this paper, a simplified methodology for the design of targets is coupled with a method for the optimization of transmutation which takes into account both transmutation performances and fuel cycle impacts. The uncertainties and performances of this methodology are evaluated and shown to be sufficient to carry out scoping studies. An illustration is then made by considering the use of moderating material in the targets, which has a positive impact on the minor actinides consumption but a negative impact both on fuel cycle constraints (higher decay heat and neutron) and on assembly design (higher helium production and lower fuel volume fraction). It is shown that the use of moderating material is an optimal solution of the transmutation problem with regards to consumption and fuel cycle impacts, even when taking geometrical design considerations into account.
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Timothee Kooyman, Laurent Buiron, Gérald Rimpault. An optimization methodology for heterogeneous minor actinides transmutation. EPJ N - Nuclear Sciences & Technologies, EDP Sciences, 2018, 4, pp.4. ⟨10.1051/epjn/2018002⟩. ⟨cea-01794026⟩

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