Neutronic Study of Burnup, Radiotoxicity, Decay Heat and Basic Safety Parameters of Mono-Recycling of Americium in French Pressurised Water Reactors

  • Robert Bright Mawuko Sogbadji Ghana Atomic Energy Commission Nuclear Power Center
  • Sylvain David
  • Edward Akaho
  • Benjamin Jabez Botwe Nyarko
Keywords: Radiotoxicity, Burnup, Americium Oxide, Cooling Time


The reprocessing of actinides with long half-life has been non-existent except for plutonium (Pu). This work looks at reducing the actinides inventory nuclear fuel waste meant for permanent disposal. The uranium oxide fuel (UOX) assembly, as in the open cycle system, was designed to reach a burnup of 46GWd/T and 68GWd/T using the MURE code. The MURE code is based on the coupling of a static Monte Carlo code and the calculation of the evolution of the fuel during irradiation and cooling periods. The MURE code has been used to address two different questions concerning the mono-recycling of americium (Am) in present French pressurised water reactors (PWR). These are reduction of americium in the clear fuel cycle and the safe quantity of americium that can be introduced into mixed oxide (MOX) as fuel. The spent UOX was reprocessed to fabricate MOX assemblies, by the extraction of plutonium and addition of depleted uranium to reach burnups of 46GWd/T and 68GWd/T, taking into account various cooling times of the spent UOX assembly in the repository. The effect of cooling time on burnup and radiotoxicity was then ascertained. After 30 years of cooling in the repository, the spent UOX fuel required a higher concentration of Pu to be reprocessed into MOX fuel due to the decay of Pu-241. Americium, with a mean half-life of 432 years, has a high radiotoxicity level, high mid-term residual heat and is a precursor for other long-lived isotopes. An innovative strategy would be to reprocess not only the plutonium from the UOX spent fuel but also the americium isotopes, which presently dominate the radiotoxicity of waste. The mono-recycling of Am is not a definitive solution because the once-through MOX cycle transmutation of Am in a PWR is not enough to destroy all americium. The main objective is to propose a ‘waiting strategy’ for both Am and Pu in the spent fuel so that they can be made available for further transmutation strategies. The MOX and americium isotopes (MOXAm) fuel was fabricated to see the effect of americium in MOX fuel on the burnup, neutronic behaviour and radiotoxicity. The MOXAm fuel showed relatively good indicators on both burnup and radiotoxicity. A 68GWd/T MOX assembly produced from a reprocessed fuel spent 46GWd/T UOX assembly showed a decrease in radiotoxicity as compared with the open cycle. All fuel types understudied in the PWR cycle showed a good safety inherent feature with the exception of some MOXAm assemblies that have a positive void coefficient in specific configurations, which would not be consistent with safety features.