Advanced fuel cycle to address spent fuel issues

The international nuclear community recognizes the potential of nuclear energy systems to cope with increasing energy demand and international protocol for climate change even after the Fukushima accident. Interna­tional cooperative programmes have been initiated to develop new systems that secure stable energy supply and have improved public acceptance, safety, and cost-effectiveness. The Republic of Korea is actively participat­ing in these programmes currently, such as the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) and the International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycle (INPRO).

Korea has been a chartered member of GIF since 2000 and plays a sig­nificant role in the development of Gen-IV. GIF was organized for collabo­rative development of new generation nuclear energy systems aiming for 2030 that can be accepted by the public and the energy market with excel­lent technical features and competitive economics, with 13 members leading nuclear utilization and development in the world taking part in GIF. GIF selected six systems of the most promising concepts as the Generation IV nuclear energy systems (Gen-IV) in 2002 and has been conducting collabo­rative R&D for each system through multilateral agreements since 2005. Korea focuses on SFR (sodium-cooled fast reactor-see Fig. 21.10) and

VHTR (very high temperature reactor) among the six Gen-IV systems. SFR is expected to use and recycle uranium resources effectively and mini­mize high-level radioactive waste with proliferation resistant fuel cycles. Korea is participating in six collaborative projects, tackling safety and oper­ation, advanced fuels, and component design and balance of plant in SFR. Korea’s Long-term Development Plan for Future Nuclear Energy Systems, approved in December 2008, also presents a milestone and deliverables of SFR and pyro-processing technology.

KAERI has been developing pyro-processing technology (Fig. 21.10) for recycling useful resources from spent fuel since 1997. The process includes pre-treatment, electro-reduction, electro-refining, electro-winning, and a waste salt treatment system. The removal of transuranic elements (TRU), Cs, and Sr from spent fuel allows the repository burden to be reduced by a factor of 100, compared with the case without removal. Fission products (FP) are recovered and transferred to a repository. As a result of pyro — processing, both repository efficiency and uranium usage are increased up to 100-fold with strong proliferation resistance.

According to the analysis of KAERI, spent nuclear fuel stock at the end of this century can be maintained at a level lower than that of today by introducing SFRs coupled with pyro-processing technology in the 2030s (Fig. 21.11 ).

to be renewed in 2014. In 2008, the IAEA approved an electro­refining laboratory — the Advanced Spent Fuel Conditioning Process Facil­ity (ACPF) at KAERI which is to be built by 2011 and expanded to engineering scale by 2012. This is envisaged as the first stage of a Korea Advanced Pyro-processing Facility (KAPF) to start experimentally in 2021 and become a commercial-scale demonstration plant in 2025. In connection with renewal of the US-ROK agreement in or by 2014, discussions are proceeding on pyro-processing.

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