Determination of economic shelf life of spent nuclear fuel

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The purpose of this study is to determine the constituents of value in spent nuclear fuel and integrate these results into an economic time dependent model of a spent fuel assembly. The value of the constituents in the spent fuel is balanced against the cost of the various nuclear fuel cycle services. BWR and PWR-UO₂/MOX spent fuel assemblies are modeled at 5 different burnups. The recycle modes that are examined are uranium recycle with and without fission product sales and uranium and plutonium recycle with and without fission product sales. UO₂ and MOX spent fuel assemblies discharged from a nuclear reactor from 1977 to 1990 are modeled for a period of 19 years.

Four key results of this study are: (1) a re-examination of the value of recycling materials other than uranium and plutonium, namely cesium-137, 134, rhodium, palladium and xenon is justified; (2) the magnitude of the net profits obtainable from the recycling of spent nuclear fuel are tied primarily to burnup and the decision to sell fission products; (3) for fission product recycle, any burnup yields a net positive value with the greater values being at high burnups; and (4) under only spent uranium and plutonium recycle, it is marginally profitable or unprofitable to recycle spent nuclear fuel. The utilization of cesium-137, 134 in the treatment of municipal sludge can reduce the importation of oil by 47.92 million U.S. barrels annually for the United States.