A First Step towards Zero Nuclear Waste—Advanced Strategic Thinking in Light of iMAGINE
2. The Way to iMAGINE
2.1. Optimizing the Reactor Technology
- Online feeding to avoid excess reactivity, which is required to operate an LWR core through one cycle.
- Operating on already used fuel instead of fresh fuel required for the operation of an LWR. In a molten salt reactor, fresh and used fuel will mix in the reactor due to the liquid state of the fuel.
- Internal closed fuel cycle operation through self-sustained breeding instead of a pure converter system like an LWR, which requires fresh, enriched fuel for every cycle and a complex fuel cycle, typically based on aqueous reprocessing to reuse Pu once in MOX fuel, which is then sent to final disposal.
- Temperature level control and resilient operation due to strong feedback effects, instead of burnup compensation based on boric acid in an LWR.
- Online salt clean-up for a closed fuel cycle without waiting times in contrast to cycling times of several years until Pu in the form of MOX fuel can be cycled once back into an LWR.
- Avoiding the costly fuel production of solid reactor systems for closed fuel cycle operation, which is reflected in the high cost of MOX fuel for LWRs and the even higher cost for fuel production in potential fast reactors .
2.2. Highly Integrated Fuel Cycle Incorporated in a Reactor System
- Operating on spent fuel without prior reprocessing, instead of the demand for clean fuel, aqueous reprocessing, and incomplete Pu burning in MOX fuel.
- Tailored salt clean-up to remove fission products that prevent long-term reactor operation, instead of the separation of fissile material, creating proliferation issues.
- Avoid the costly solid fuel production and potential multiple recycling, compared to the requirement for fresh, enriched fuel for each cycle in an LWR.
- Avoid mining and enrichment for new LWR fuel through internal closed fuel cycle operation.
- Deliver breeding of fissile material from U-238, to use available resources currently seen as waste—spent nuclear fuel, as well as tailings; reuse of the remainder of the LWR technology for energy production instead of mining for new, raw materials.
2.3. Waste Production and Final Disposal Opportunities
- Changes in the radionuclide inventory and materials, e.g., due to reprocessing or advanced reactors.
- Changes in the volume of waste, e.g., due to reprocessing or through a new waste to be expected from an advanced reactor (e.g., fuel graphite combination as from a pebble bed reactor).
- Changes in the thermal power of the waste, e.g., through the separation of minor actinides or due to a higher burnup.
- Changes in the durability of the waste in the specific repository environment, e.g., more durable conditioning.
- The repository safety.
- The repository cost and efficiency.
2.3.1. Changes in the Radionuclide Inventory and Materials
2.3.2. Changes in the Volume of Waste
2.3.3. Changes in the Thermal Power of the Waste
2.3.4. Changes in the Durability of the Waste
2.3.5. Risk of Misuse and Theft of Pu
2.4. Potential Clean-Up Approaches for Managing Undesirable Fission Products
2.4.1. Separation of the Fission Gases
2.4.2. Separation of the Noble Metal and Metalloid Components from the Liquid Fuel
2.4.3. Separation of the Volatile Chlorides
|FpClx,||TM (°C)||TB (°C)|
2.4.4. Separation by Electro-Reduction
3. Opportunities for Improved Waste Management
Recycling of Fission Products for Alternative End Use Applications
Conflicts of Interest
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|Fuel usage||100 kg from existing sources such as SNF or tailings transformed into uranium chloride||2500 kg in the form of UOX pellets in fuel assemblies|
|Using up already extracted/mined materials||Made from 20 to 25 tons of natural uranium through enrichment|
|separated from 28,500 to 72,000 tons of mined material|
|Waste production||100 kg of fission products to be separated through new processes to ensure long-term operation|
Opportunity to optimally condition separate elements to limit mobility
|2500 kg spent fuel in fuel assemblies containing TRU elements required to be stored and later disposed in a deep geological repository|
|~20 tons of tailings, which have to be stored|
|28,500 to 72,000 tons of mined material with low activity, creating a major source of radiotoxicity to the environment|
|Time Period (Ears)||Activity Reduction Factor|
|1-500 with P&T||81,036|
|1-500 without P&T||966|
|500 gain P&T||84|
|500-1 mio with P&T||8|
|500-1 mio without P&T||131|
|1 mio gain P&T||5.1|
|500-10 mio with P&T||230|
|500-10 mio without P&T||552|
|10 mio gain P&T||35|
|Categories of |
|Percentage Fraction of the Activation |
and Fission Products
|Top four rarest elements||Ru||2562||7.40|
|Lanthanides above 1 ppm||Nd||3155||9.11|
|Other notable elements above 1 ppm||Ba||1336||3.86|
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Merk, B.; Detkina, A.; Litskevich, D.; Patel, M.; Noori-kalkhoran, O.; Cartland-Glover, G.; Efremova, O.; Bankhead, M.; Degueldre, C. A First Step towards Zero Nuclear Waste—Advanced Strategic Thinking in Light of iMAGINE. Energies 2022, 15, 7209. https://doi.org/10.3390/en15197209
Merk B, Detkina A, Litskevich D, Patel M, Noori-kalkhoran O, Cartland-Glover G, Efremova O, Bankhead M, Degueldre C. A First Step towards Zero Nuclear Waste—Advanced Strategic Thinking in Light of iMAGINE. Energies. 2022; 15(19):7209. https://doi.org/10.3390/en15197209Chicago/Turabian Style
Merk, Bruno, Anna Detkina, Dzianis Litskevich, Maulik Patel, Omid Noori-kalkhoran, Gregory Cartland-Glover, Olga Efremova, Mark Bankhead, and Claude Degueldre. 2022. "A First Step towards Zero Nuclear Waste—Advanced Strategic Thinking in Light of iMAGINE" Energies 15, no. 19: 7209. https://doi.org/10.3390/en15197209