Analysis of reprocessing options for medium sized nuclear fleets

Aris Villacorta Skarbeli


Reprocessing of irradiated nuclear fuel serves multiple purposes, from Pu separation and recovery for MOX fuel fabrication to reduction of high level waste volume, and is nowadays being implemented in several countries like France, Japan or Russia, having a significant number of nuclear power plants and installed capacity. This work is aimed at exploring the possibility (in resources and economic terms) of implementing reprocessing for MOX fabrication in countries with medium sized fleets.

In order to properly study this reprocessing strategy in a medium sized fleet, the case of Spain has been chosen as representative. Two groups of fuel cycle scenarios beyond the current status of the fuel cycle in this country have been simulated. They include life-extension of the current reactor fleet and reprocessing strategies that burn the maximum possible amount of the Pu mass generated in the cycle. The simulation of the scenarios has been performed with TR_EVOL code developed at CIEMAT, considering each Spanish nuclear reactor individually.

This work includes the assessment of the impact of different scenario hypotheses on the amount of Pu burned in the cycle, the gallery length required in the final disposal, the economic implications (for the fuel cycle and in the particular case of reprocessing and waste management), and the effect of variations in the price of natural uranium.

Results show that the lifetime of the reactors has an impact in the possible reduction in the Pu amount. Besides, some scenarios show a shortage of Pu available for MOX fuel fabrication coming from the reprocessing of UO2 spent fuel. From the economics point of view, this work has verified that, for medium sized fuel cycle scenarios, the most important parameters are the reprocessing cost and the natural uranium price. Smaller impact in the comparison is also found for the cost of the final disposal and the possibility of valuing the surplus Pu and reprocessed uranium existing at the end of the cycle.