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Plutonium Recycling via Iterative Mixed-Oxide Fuel Reprocessing Public Deposited

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  • Poster presented at Idaho National Laboratory for the 2014 Fuel Cycle Technologies Annual Review Meeting.
  • Plutonium is currently used for nuclear energy production in the form of mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel in a once-through cycle. The spent fuel from these burnup cycles is then discarded as nuclear waste. MOX fuel burnup, however, transmutes some uranium into additional fissile plutonium, which can be extracted and remixed into new burnable MOX fuel. One can, in principle, repeat this process throughout multiple iterations, extracting more energy from nuclear fuel and diminishing the accumulation of plutonium in nuclear waste stockpiles. While the cost of reprocessing MOX fuel remains constant throughout recycling iterations, the isotopic composition of plutonium will change as fissile isotopes of plutonium are used up during MOX fuel burnup, while fertile isotopes accumulate. This isotopic drift will also change the neutronics properties of the MOX fuel made out of the recycled plutonium, which may limit the number of times one may recycle plutonium in such a fuel cycle. We studied the extent to which plutonium is recyclable in such a manner by running simulations of MOX fuel burnup in a pressurized water reactor using the 2D neutronics code CASMO-4E.
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