Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Materials

Advanced Nuclear Fuels and Fuel Cycles

Management of Reprocessed Uranium (RepU)

By facilitating information exchange and preparing technical documents, the IAEA works to increase the awareness of the Member States in improving resource utilization to support the sustainable growth of nuclear energy. Future activities of the IAEA includes holding a technical meeting on Management and Use of Reprocessed Uranium for Water Cooled Reactors in 2013. The purpose of this meeting is to review, update and discuss the developments in the management options and associated technical issues for the use of reprocessed uranium in water-cooled reactors. In 2010, a technical document entitled Use of Reprocessed Uranium: Challenges and Options was published to summarize the information on the management of reprocessed uranium (RepU). The publication covers technical and economic issues involved in storing, handling and reusing RepU for nuclear energy generation.

For further information, please contact the NEFW Contact Point.


Background

Reprocessing of spent fuel discharged from nuclear reactors is one of the strategies of the back end of nuclear fuel cycle. The spent fuel discharged from light water reactors contains almost 95% uranium containing 0.9–1.0% U-235 apart from plutonium, minor actinides and fission products. Thus a large quantity of uranium (RepU) is available by reprocessing spent fuel from water cooled reactors. The use of reprocessed uranium, Pu and MAs in nuclear fuel cycle significantly reduces the radiological impacts on the environment due to substantial reduction in the volume as well as the radiotoxicity of the final waste. Recycling of fissile materials also reduces requirement for fresh milling and mill tailings. The issue of recycle and reuse of valuable fissile materials is important for the nuclear fuel cycle in the context of sustainable growth of nuclear energy.

Reprocessed uranium has potential value for recycling either directly or after appropriate treatment. There is practically no difference in in-reactor performance between re-enriched reprocessed uranium and enriched natural uranium in light water reactors, or between reprocessed uranium and natural uranium in heavy water reactors. However, there are some challenges in the management and use of this valuable resource. Some of the challenges include sustainability of supply, economics, radiological impacts in fuel manufacturing & transportation, safety requirement etc.

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