E. Kitcher, J. Burns, “Criticality concerns of a group actinide co-crystallization separations approach to used nuclear fuel recycling”, Annals of Nuclear Energy, 115 (2018).
The co-crystallization of hexavalent actinides with uranyl nitrate hexahydrate has been established as a viable approach to achieving group actinide separation in used nuclear fuel recycle, while avoiding the difficulties associated with the solvent-extraction process altogether. A preliminary neutronics safety analysis has been performed to alleviate criticality concerns associated with this group hexavalent actinide co-crystallization approach. The basic uranyl nitrate hexahydrate material compositions used are representative of used fuel found at commercial pressurized water reactors all around the U.S. This material is subsequently doped with various percentages of either typical reactor grade plutonium or with the total transuranic vector, replacing the uranium atoms in the crystal lattice structure. Infinite and effective neutron multiplication factors were calculated using the state-of-the-art Monte Carlo neutron transport code MCNP in a variety of plausible material configurations, assuming an acceptable safety limit for criticality to be an effective neutron multiplication factor less than 0.95. The results indicate that the crystal structures form a very subcritical intrinsic geometry even with six water molecules being incorporated into the crystal structure. The results of this research suggest that significant opportunity exists for the safe transfer of the group actinide separation approach from a laboratory to an operational scale.