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Nuclear fuel cycle

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


90 hours study time

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

  • To get 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
    • The physical, chemical and radiological state of the fuel after irradiation
    • The back-end of the fuel cycle:
      • The management options for the spent fuel before disposal: interim storage and spent fuel reprocessing including advanced fuel cycle options.
      • The management and disposal of radioactive waste – including the spent nuclear fuel that is considered as waste - ranging from waste characterisation, waste treatment technologies, disposal concepts, safety assessment of geologic disposal, Belgian concepts and strategies of radioactive waste management.
  • First part – The uranium fuel cycle (K. Govers)

    • Description of main U minerals and deposits; description of the main techniques of exploration, ore

      extraction and treatment
    • Theory of the symmetrical enrichment cascade; description of the conversion and enrichment

      processes: gas diffusion, ultra-centrifugation, LASER-based technique,...
    • Description of the main commercial core designs and fuel types, and fabrication process; discussion

      of the material choices.
    • Fuel evolution under irradiation, isotopic composition, residual heat and source term
    • Theory of the counter current reprocessing scheme; description of the PUREX reprocessing process
    • Reprocessing or disposal of spent fuel: overview of the possible spent fuel management strategies

    Second part – The management of radioactive waste, including the spent nuclear fuel

    that is considered as waste (C. Bruggeman)

    • Inventory and classification of radioactive waste
    • Treatment, conditioning and immobilisation of radioactive waste
    • Characteriszation of radioactive waste
    • Management options and disposal concepts for the different radioactive waste categories
    • Durability of immobilised radioactive waste
    • Assessment of the safety of geological disposal (methodology; safety and performance evaluation)
    • Impact of different 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 visit to the HADES underground research laboratory in clay
  • The PowerPoint presentations of the lectures and review papers 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:
      • Written examination for the uranium fuel cycle part: own 1-page summary notes + nuclide chart

        allowed for entire duration; 15 min open book authorized before submitting the questionnaire.
      • Oral examination for the radioactive waste management part (weighting factor 50%-50%);

        written preparation, closed book.

        In case of a failure for one of the two parts, the examination committee can decide to penalize by lowering the final grade.
    • Technical visits are compulsory and cannot be repeated in the second session (no report required).
    • The examination of the two parts of this course can take place on two separate days.

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