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Multiphysics modeling of a critical dual-purpose canister in a saturated geological repository

by Mathew W Swinney, Santosh Bhatt, Gregory G Davidson, Michael Nole, Kaushik Banerjee
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Annals of Nuclear Energy
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Dual purpose dry cask storage canisters for spent nuclear fuel are designed for storage and transportation, but are not licensed for permanent disposal in a geological repository. If dual purpose canisters were to be used to dispose of spent nuclear fuel in a geological repository, they would be expected to eventually breach and be flooded with groundwater, and it is shown that some fraction of these canisters will achieve criticality. To evaluate the consequences of canisters going critical in a repository, an initial capability has been developed for estimating the quasi-static power level of a critical canister using loosely coupled multiphysics simulations. The low power level in a critical canister enables coupling through precomputed physics proxies. This calculated power level is then used to compute the change in the critical canister’s isotopic inventory as a function of time. Three as-loaded canisters are evaluated and two were found to have power levels below 4 kW, with a modest effect on the radiological inventory over time. This effort also shows that although some DPCs will have extremely peaked power shapes, the relatively low power and long-time scales result in relatively homogenized thermohydraulic properties in the water within the DPC.