United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Strategies for Application of Isotopic Uncertainties in Burnup Credit (NUREG/CR-6811)

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Publication Information

Manuscript Completed: December 2002
Date Published: June 2003

Prepared by:
1. C. Gauld

Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Managed by UT-Battelle, LLC
Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6370

R Y. Lee, NRC Project Manager

NRC Job Code W6479

Prepared for:
Division of Systems Analysis and Regulatory Effectiveness
Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001

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Uncertainties in the predicted isotopic concentrations in spent nuclear fuel represent one of the largest sources of overall uncertainty in criticality calculations that use burnup credit. The methods used to propagate the uncertainties in the calculated nuclide concentrations to the uncertainty in the predicted neutron multiplication factor (keff) of the system can have a significant effect on the uncertainty in the safety margin in criticality calculations and ultimately affect the potential capacity of spent fuel transport and storage casks employing bumup credit. Methods that can provide a more accurate and realistic estimate of the uncertainty may enable increased spent fuel cask capacity and fewer casks needing to be transported, thereby reducing regulatory burden on licensee while maintaining safety for transporting spent fuel. This report surveys several different best-estimate strategies for considering the effects of nuclide uncertainties in bumup-credit analyses. The potential benefits of these strategies are illustrated for a prototypical burnup-credit cask design. The subcritical margin estimated using best-estimate methods is discussed in comparison to the margin estimated using conventional bounding methods of uncertainty propagation. To quantify the comparison, each of the strategies for estimating uncertainty has been performed using a common database of spent fuel isotopic assay measurements for pressurized light-water reactor fuels and predicted nuclide concentrations obtained using the current version of the SCALE code system. The experimental database applied in this study has been significantly expanded to include new high-enrichment and high-burnup spent fuel assay data recently published for a wide range of important burnup-credit actinides and fission products. Expanded rare earth fission-product measurements performed at the Khlopin Radium Institute in Russia that contain the only known publicly available measurement for 03Rh have also been included.

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