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U.S. Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Assembly Characteristics: 1968-2013 (NUREG/CR-7227)

Publication Type
Technical Report

Activities related to management of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) are increasing in the US and many other countries. Over 240,000 SNF assemblies have been discharged from US commercial reactors since the late 1960s. The enrichment and burnup of SNF have changed significantly over the past 40 years, and fuel assembly designs have also evolved. Understanding the general characteristics of SNF helps regulators and other stakeholders form overall strategies towards the final disposal of US SNF. This report documents a survey of all US commercial SNF assemblies in the GC-859 database and provides reference SNF source terms (e.g., nuclide inventories, decay heat, and neutron/photon emission) at various cooling times up to 200 years after fuel discharge. This study reviews the distribution and evolution of fuel parameters of all SNF assemblies discharged over the past 40 years. Assemblies were categorized into three groups based on discharge year, and the median burnups and enrichments of each group were used to establish representative cases. An extended burnup case was created for boiling water reactor (BWR) fuels, and another was created for the pressurized water reactor (PWR) fuels. Two additional cases were developed to represent the eight mixed oxide (MOX) fuel assemblies in the database. Burnup calculations were performed for each representative case. Realistic parameters for fuel design and operations were used to model the SNF and to provide reference fuel characteristics representative of the current inventory. Burnup calculations were performed using the ORIGEN code, which is part of the SCALE nuclear modeling and simulation code system. Results include total activity, decay heat, photon emission, neutron flux, gamma heat, and plutonium content, as well as concentrations for 115 significant nuclides. These quantities are important in the design, regulation, and operations of SNF storage, transportation, and disposal systems.