Fuel cycle performance of thermal spectrum small modular reactors

Nicholas R. Brown, Andrew Worrall, Michael Todosow

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

    2 Scopus citations


    Small modular reactors (SMRs) offer potential benefits, such as enhanced operational flexibility. However, it is vital to understand the holistic impact of SMRs on nuclear fuel cycle performance. The focus of this paper is the fuel cycle impacts of light water SMRs 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, Ojfice of Nuclear Energy, Fuel Cycle Options Campaign. The hypothetical light water SMR considered in these preliminary scoping studies is a "cartridge type" one- batch core with 4.9% enrichment. Challenges associated with SMRs 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 burnup in the reactor and the fuel cycle performance. This paper summarizes a list of the factors relevant to SMR fuel, core, and operation that will impact fuel cycle performance. The high-level issues identified and preliminary scoping calculations in this paper are intended to inform regarding potential fuel cycle impacts of one-batch thermal spectrum SMRs. Ln particular, this paper highlights the impact of increased neutron leakage and reduced number of batches on the achievable burnup of the reactor. Fuel cycle performance metrics for an SMR are compared with those for a conventional three-batch light water reactor in the following areas: nuclear waste management, environmental impact, and resource utilization. The metrics performance for an SMR is degraded for the mass of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste disposed of, mass of depleted uranium disposed of, land use per energy generated, and carbon emissions per energy generated. This manuscript has been authored by UT-Battelle LLC under Contract No. DE-AC05-OOOR22725 with the U.S. Department of Energy. The United States Government retains and the publisher, by accepting the article for publication, acknowledges that the United States Government retains a non-exclusive, paid-up, irrevocable, world-wide license to publish or reproduce the published form of this manuscript, or allow others to do so, for United States Government purposes. The Department of Energy will provide public access to these results of federally sponsored research in accordance with the DOE Public Access Plan.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationInternational Congress on Advances in Nuclear Power Plants, ICAPP 2016
    PublisherAmerican Nuclear Society
    Number of pages8
    ISBN (Electronic)9781510825949
    StatePublished - 2016
    Event2016 International Congress on Advances in Nuclear Power Plants, ICAPP 2016 - San Francisco, United States
    Duration: Apr 17 2016Apr 20 2016

    Publication series

    NameInternational Congress on Advances in Nuclear Power Plants, ICAPP 2016


    Other2016 International Congress on Advances in Nuclear Power Plants, ICAPP 2016
    Country/TerritoryUnited States
    CitySan Francisco

    All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

    • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
    • Nuclear Energy and Engineering


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