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Title: Fuel Cycle Performance of Thermal Spectrum Small Modular Reactors

Small modular reactors may offer potential benefits, such as enhanced operational flexibility. However, it is vital to understand the holistic impact of small modular reactors on the nuclear fuel cycle and fuel cycle performance. The focus of this paper is on the fuel cycle impacts of light water small modular reactors in a once-through fuel cycle with low-enriched uranium fuel. A key objective of this paper is to describe preliminary reactor core physics and fuel cycle analyses conducted in support of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy Fuel Cycle Options Campaign. Challenges with small modular reactors include: increased neutron leakage, fewer assemblies in the core (and therefore fewer degrees of freedom in the core design), complex enrichment and burnable absorber loadings, full power operation with inserted control rods, the potential for frequent load-following operation, and shortened core height. Each of these will impact the achievable discharge burn-up in the reactor and the fuel cycle performance. This paper summarizes the results of an expert elicitation focused on developing a list of the factors relevant to small modular reactor fuel, core, and operation that will impact fuel cycle performance. Preliminary scoping analyses were performed using a regulatory-grade reactor coremore » simulator. The hypothetical light water small modular reactor considered in these preliminary scoping studies is a cartridge type one-batch core with 4.9% enrichment. Some core parameters, such as the size of the reactor and general assembly layout, are similar to an example small modular reactor concept from industry. The high-level issues identified and preliminary scoping calculations in this paper are intended to inform on potential fuel cycle impacts of one-batch thermal spectrum SMRs. In particular, this paper highlights the impact of increased neutron leakage and reduced number of batches on the achievable burn-up of the reactor. Fuel cycle performance metrics for a small modular reactor are compared to a conventional three-batch light water reactor in the following areas: nuclear waste management, environmental impact, and resource utilization. Metrics performance for a small modular reactor are degraded for mass of spent nuclear fuel and high level waste disposed, mass of depleted uranium disposed, land use per energy generated, and carbon emission per energy generated« less
 [1] ;  [2]
  1. ORNL
  2. Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Resource Relation:
Conference: ICAPP, San Francisco, CA, USA, 20160417, 20160420
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
NE USDOE - Office of Nuclear Energy
Country of Publication:
United States