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Spent MOX Nuclear Fuel Handling


Technical and Economic Feasibility of Alternatives for the Packaging, Interim Storage & Transportation of Fresh and Spent MOX Nuclear Fuel

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-RWT/Radioactive Waste Treatment/Environment

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Kurchatov Research Center, Russia, Moscow


  • Belgonucléaire, Belgium, Brussels\nNuclear Cargo + Service GmbH (NCS), Germany, Hanau\nCEA / DEN, France, Gif-sur-Yvette Cedex

Project summary

Initially, the closed NFC concept supposed the utilization of fissile materials, extracted in course of reprocessing, in fast reactors. However, delays with fast reactor programs have compelled to start utilizing the extracted fissile materials in already existing thermal reactors. Presently the plutonium utilization (in MOX fuel) is realized only in Belgium, Germany, France, Switzerland and Japan. Capacity of the nuclear reactor park operating on MOX fuel makes about 27 GW(e). Recycled uranium is also used in thermal reactors in the United Kingdom and Russia.

A closed nuclear fuel cycle still remains Russian national strategy for the peaceful use of nuclear power, with plutonium, both weapon and reactor grade, considered as a key element of the cycle and not as a radwaste component.

The need to use the MOX-fuel reactor option for disposition of excess weapons plutonium and the decision by the Russian Federation not to reprocess the spent nuclear fuel produced have both emphasized the need for interim storage of spent nuclear fuel in Russia. There is a need to store spent MOX fuel for at least 40 years pending decisions to either reprocess the spent fuel or emplace it in some type of geologic repository. There is also a need to establish a transportation infrastructure to handle the spent fuel, and in the case of MOX fuel, the non-irradiated fuel forms, since fresh MOX is under different safeguards and accountability regime, in contrast to low-enriched uranium fresh fuel. Another relevant factor is that if Pu disposition rates are increased, the MOX program may also generate higher volumes of spent fuel. While the technology for doing most of these steps is well understood, there are many variations and options to be considered.

VVER-1000 and BN-600 available studies investigate the different facilities and processes for completion of the plutonium disposition mission in Russia with not enough focus on packaging and transportation needs for the fresh and spent MOX fuel between different facilities involved in Pu disposition.

The main goal of the projects #1058 was to carry out integrated studies on technical and economic feasibility of alternatives for the packaging, transportation, and interim storage of fresh and spent MOX nuclear fuel. Within Tasks #1058.1 and #1058.2 in collaboration with foreign partners for chosen scenarios was studied in details flowsheet for the packaging, transportation, and interim storage of fresh and spent MOX nuclear fuel in Russia including its cost evaluation for two chosen Scenarios. It is important for detailed description and characterization of whole fuel cycle based on MOX fuel utilization in reactor units.

Current Project OPTIMIST represents logical continuation of work done within #1058.1 and #1058.2. The final result of the OPTIMIST project will be a comprehensive study of technical feasibility of alternatives for the packaging, transportation, and interim storage of fresh and spent MOX nuclear fuel in Russia for the latest scenario developments and revised initial data.

It is anticipated that the OPTIMIST project will result in creation of a solid scientific and engineering basis for the development of nuclear fuel cycle in Russia with greater energy security, while promoting non- proliferation in cleaner and safer world. When all this information is brought together in a single document, it will be possible to “weave a path” through the various options and pick the most viable combination of alternatives, corresponding with the program for Nuclear Power and Fuel Cycle Development in Russia.


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