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Nuclear fuel cycle

Prof. Christophe Bruggeman – Université de Liège
Prof. Kevin Govers – Université de Liège

3 ECTS

90 hours study time


  • 26,5 contact hours theory
  • 7 contact hours exersises/laboratory sessions/visits
  • 0 hours additional personal work (reading etc.)

  • To provide students an overall view of the fuel cycle, from cradle to grave:

    • The front-end of the fuel cycle: ore extraction, conversion and enrichment, fuel fabrication and use in the power plant, spent fuel reprocessing and recycling of re-enriched reprocessed U and Pu as MOX in PWR
    • The back-end of the fuel cycle: the radioactive waste management, ranging from waste characteristics, waste treatment technologies, disposal technologies, safety assessment of geologic disposal
  • First part – The front-end of the fuel cycle (H. Druenne)

    • Description of main U minerals and deposits, and of exploration, ore extraction and treatment techniques
    • Conversion of concentrated ores and U enrichment: basic principles of isotopic separation, theory of the cascade (symmetrical cascade) and description of the main techniques (gas diffusion, ulra-centrifugation, LASER and others).
    • Choice of the materials, description of the various current commercial core designs and fuel types, and fabrication process.
    • Isotopic evolution under irradiation, residual heat and source term.
    • Reprocessing of UO2 fuel elements: description of the PUREX process
    • Recycling of U and Pu: technology and industrial limits, equivalence principle
    • Interim storage : description of the main concepts for dry and wet storage

    Second part – The back-end of the fuel cycle (C. Bruggeman)

    • Categories, inventory of radioactive waste 
    • Conditioning and immobilisation of radioactive waste
    • Characterization of radioactive waste (general; scaling factors; destructive analysis; non-destructive analysis)
    • Introduction into radiochemistry (fundamentals; techniques used for radioactive tracers and sources)
    • Assessment of the safety of geological disposal (methodology; some typical results from the safety assessment)
    • Impact of new fuel cycles on radioactive waste disposal
    • Geological repositories: key criteria for designing a disposal concept, overview of ongoing international programmes, and discussion of the Belgian supercontainer concept
    • Technical visits to the Belgoprocess facility and to the ESV underground research laboratory in clay on the SCK CEN site 
  • The PowerPoint presentations of the lectures, and extensive lecture notes, are available on the BNEN website.

  • Courses in the following field

    • Nuclear energy: introduction
    • Introduction to nuclear physics and measurements

    Basic chemistry, material sciences, nuclear physics

    • First and second session: Oral examination for each part (weighting factor 50%-50%); written preparation.
    • Technical visitis are compulsory and cannot be repeated in the second session (no report required).

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