Nuclear Fuel Cycle

5.1. INTRODUCTION/OBJECTIVES

Within present day generation plants, there is a continuous drive to improve all aspects of performance and safety in nuclear fuel cycle technology and practices. The approach is to optimise fuel cycles as a whole, taking into account all components from mining to disposal. This will include the various options for fuel supply, fabrication, generation, fuel storage, reprocessing, recycling, waste management, disposal and decommissioning. It will be necessary to simplify the fuel cycle to reduce costs, while still minimising the environmental impact, maintaining the safety of and retaining public confidence in fuel cycle facilities. Particular goals are to improve fuel performance for longer life in the reactor and the development of advanced fuels, including mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. This chapter reviews these issues and practices in turn.

There are many drivers for advanced fuels development. For current and evolutionary plant optimised uranium-based fuels are being considered to enable higher power, longer life and longer fuel cycles. The utilisation of MOX fuels in thermal reactors is one method of burning unwanted plutonium from weapons programmes. Other fuels such as thorium offer advantages of reduced actinide inventory in waste. Future reactor systems offer a means of managing actinides and reducing the radiotoxicity of waste.

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