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A comparison of curium, neptunium and americium transmutation feasibility

Abstract : Minor actinides transmutation is the process of decreasing the long term radiotoxicity of the nuclear spent fuel by submitting it to a neutron flux so as to achieve fission of the heavy nuclides concerned. In the case of a closed fuel cycle, minor actinides are the main contributors to the spent fuel radiotoxicity after a few centuries. The isotopic vector of the minor actinides feed to be transmuted depends heavily on the fuel cycle considered PWRs with UOX fuels will mainly lead to neptunium and americium production while MOX fueled reactors will produce mainly americium and curium. Americium is the main element currently considered for transmutation due to its relatively short half-life and important production. On the other hand, neptunium is seen as a secondary candidate for transmutation due to its very long half life and low activity while Curium has transmutation is generally ruled out due to the important activity of curium isotopes. Two modes of transmutation in fast reactors are generally opposed, namely the homogeneous approach in which minor actinides are directly mixed with the fuel while in the heterogeneous approach, the minor actinides are loaded in dedicated targets. It is shown in this paper that the impacts on the fuel cycle of heterogeneous americium transmutation are similar to the one of homogeneous curium transmutation. It is further shown that given the quantities of curium in the fuel cycle, only a limited number of reactors would be required to effectively transmute the curium production of fast reactors with americium bearing blankets. Curium transmutation thus appears a feasible option in a completely closed fuel cycle without significantly higher fuel cycle impacts than with only americium transmutation. It is finally verified that neptunium transmutation can be achieved regardless of the approach considered.
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Timothée Kooyman, Laurent Buiron, G. Rimpault. A comparison of curium, neptunium and americium transmutation feasibility. Annals of Nuclear Energy, Elsevier Masson, 2018, 112, pp.748-758. ⟨10.1016/j.anucene.2017.09.041⟩. ⟨cea-02421722⟩

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