II Development of ADS Technologies: Current Status of Accelerator-Driven System Development

Contribution of the European Commission to a European Strategy for HLW Management Through Partitioning & Transmutation

Presentation of MYRRHA and Its Role in the European P&T Strategy

Hamid A¨ıt Abderrahim

Abstract MYRRHA (Multi-purpose hYbrid Research Reactor for High-tech Applications) is an experimental accelerator-driven system (ADS) currently being developed at SCK•CEN for replacement of material testing reactor BR2. The MYRRHA facility is conceived as a flexible fast-spectrum irradiation facility that is able to run in both subcritical and critical modes. The applications catalogue of MYRRHA includes fuel developments for innovative reactor systems, material developments for GEN IV systems and fusion reactors, doped silicon production, radioisotope production, and fundamental science applications, thanks to the highpower proton accelerator. Next to these applications, MYRRHA will demonstrate the ADS full concept by coupling a high-power proton accelerator, a multimegawatts spallation target, and a subcritical reactor at reasonable power level to allow operational feedback, scalable to an industrial demonstrator, and to allow the study of efficient transmutation of high-level nuclear waste. Because MYRRHA is based on the heavy liquid metal technology, namely lead–bismuth eutectic (LBE), it will be able to significantly contribute to the development of Lead Fast Reactor (LFR) technology and will have the role of European Technology Pilot Plant in the roadmap for LFR. The current design of the MYRRHA ADS and its ability to contribute to the European Commission strategy for high-level waste management through Partitioning and Transmutation (P&T) are discussed in this chapter.

Keywords ADS • HLW Management • MYRRHA • P&T


When concerned with energy, one cannot avoid considering geostrategic questions and the international political situation. Indeed, major armed conflicts in the world in past decades are taking place in major fossil energy production countries or on the major roads connecting places of great production with those of large consumption. Therefore, Europe is very concerned about the security of its supply in terms of energy, especially when considering the limited energy fossil resources in the European Union (EU). As such, nuclear power remains a major energy source in the EU.

Presently, the EU relies, for 30 % of its electric power production, on generation

II–III fission nuclear reactors, leading to the annual production of 2,500 t/year of used fuel, containing 25 t plutonium, and high-level wastes (HLW) such as 3.5 t of minor actinides (MA), namely, neptunium (Np), americium (Am), and curium (Cm), and 3 t of long-lived fission products (LLFPs). These MA and LLFP stocks need to be managed in an appropriate way. The reprocessing of used fuel (closed fuel cycle) followed by geological disposal, or direct geological disposal (open fuel cycle), are today the envisaged solutions in Europe, depending on national fuel cycle options and waste management policies. The required time scale for geological disposal exceeds our accumulated technological knowledge, and this remains the main concern of the public. Partitioning and Transmutation (P&T) has been pointed out in numerous studies as the strategy that can relax constraints on geological disposal and reduce the monitoring period to technological and manageable time scales. Therefore, a special effort is ongoing in Europe and beyond to integrate P&T in advanced fuel cycles and advanced options for HLW management. Transmutation based on critical or subcritical fast-spectrum transmuters should be evaluated to assess the technical and economic feasibility of this waste management option, which could ease the development of a deep geological storage.

Despite diverse strategies and policies pursued by European Member States concerning nuclear power and the envisaged fuel cycle policy ranging from the once-through without reprocessing to the double-strata fuel cycle ending with ADS as the ultimate burner or generation IV (Gen-IV) fast critical reactors multirecycling all transuranic (TRUs), P&T requires an integrated effort at the European and even worldwide level. Even when considering the phase-out of nuclear energy, the combination of P&T and a dedicated burner such as ADS technologies, at a European scale, would allow meeting the objectives of both types of countries, those phasing out nuclear energy as well as countries favoring the continuation of nuclear energy development toward the deployment of new fastspectrum systems.

The concept of partitioning and transmutation has three main goals: reduction of the radiological hazard associated with spent fuel by reducing the inventory of minor actinides, reduction of the time interval required to reach the radiotoxicity of

7 Contribution of the European Commission to a European Strategy for HLW.. . 61

Fig. 7.1 Radiotoxicity of radioactive waste [4]

natural uranium, and reduction of the heat load of the HLW packages to be stored in geological disposal, leading to its efficient use.

Transmutation of high-level radioactive elements with a long half-life present in the nuclear waste reduces the radiological impact of the actinides (such as americium, curium, and neptunium) and fission products. The time scale (Fig. 7.1) needed for the radiotoxicity of the waste to drop to the level of natural uranium will be reduced from a 'geological' value (500,000 to 1 million years) to a value that is comparable to that of human activities (several hundreds of years) [1– 3]. During transmutation, the nuclei of the actinides are fissioned into shorterlived fission products.

To transmute the minor actinides in an efficient way, high intensity and high energy neutron fluences are necessary. Therefore, only nuclear fast fission reactors, being critical or subcritical, can be utilized.

If the aim is to transmute large amounts of minor actinides in the dedicated transmuter then it is necessary to use an accelerator-driven system. The subcriticality is mandatory because of the smaller delayed neutron fraction within the minor actinides (0.01–0.1 %) compared to uranium-235 (0.7 %) to allow the criticality variation control.

After nearly 20 years of basic research funded by national programs and EURATOM framework programs, the research community needs to be able to quantify indicators for decision makers, such as the proportion of waste to be channeled to this mode of management, but also issues related to safety, radiation protection, transport, secondary wastes, costs, and scheduling.

From 2005, the research community on P&T within the EU started structuring its research toward a more integrated approach. This effort resulted, during the FP6, into two large integrated projects, namely, EUROPART dealing with partitioning, and EUROTRANS dealing with accelerator driven system (ADS), design

transmutation, development of advanced fuel for transmutation, R&D activities related to the heavy liquid metal technology, innovative structural materials, and nuclear data measurement. This approach resulted in a European strategy, the so-called four building blocks at engineering level for P&T, as given next. The implementation of P&T of a large part of the high-level nuclear wastes in Europe needs the demonstration of its feasibility at an “engineering” level. The respective R&D activities could be arranged in these four “building blocks,” as listed next:

1. Demonstration of the capability to process a sizable amount of spent fuel from commercial LWRs to separate plutonium (Pu), uranium (U), and minor actinides (MA),

2. Demonstration of the capability to fabricate, at a semi-industrial level, the dedicated fuel needed to load in a dedicated transmuter (JRC-ITU)

3. Design and construction of one or more dedicated transmuters

4. Provision of a specific installation for processing of the dedicated fuel unloaded from the transmuter, which can be of a different type than that used to process the original spent fuel unloaded from commercial power plants, together with the fabrication of new dedicated fuel

These “blocks will” result in identification of the costs and benefits of partitioning and transmutation for European society.

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