Environmental Aspects of Advanced Nuclear Fuel Cycles: Parametric Modeling and Preliminary Analysis
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Nuclear power has the potential to help reduce rising carbon emissions, but to be considered sustainable, it must also demonstrate the availability of an indefinite fuel supply as well as not produce any significant negative environmental effects. The objective of this research was to evaluate the sustainability of nuclear power and to explore the nuclear fuel cycles that best meet this goal. First, the study quantified current and promising nuclear fuel cycles to be further evaluated and developed a set of objective metrics to describe the environmental effects of each cycle. The metrics included such factors as the amount of waste generated and the isotopic composition of the waste. Next, the evaluation used the International Atomic Energy Agency's Nuclear Fuel Cycle Simulation System to compute nuclide compositions at various stages of the fuel cycles. Finally, the study looked at the radioactivity of the waste generated and used this and other characteristics to determine which fuel cycle meets the objectives of sustainability. Results confirm that incorporating recycling into the fuel cycle would help reduce the volume of waste needing to be stored long-term. Also, calculations made with data from the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Simulation System predicted that the waste from fuel cycles using recycling would be slightly more radiotoxic than the open fuel cycle?s waste. However, the small increase in radiotoxicity is a manageable issue and would not detract from the benefits of recycling. Therefore, recycling and reprocessing spent fuel must be incorporated into the nuclear fuel cycle to achieve sustainability.
Yancey, Kristina D. (2010). Environmental Aspects of Advanced Nuclear Fuel Cycles: Parametric Modeling and Preliminary Analysis. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from