United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Sensitivity and Uncertainty Analysis of Commercial Reactor Criticals for Burnup Credit (NUREG/CR-6951)

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Publication Information

Manuscript Completed: October 2007
Date Published: January 2008

Prepared by:
G. Radulescu, D.E. Mueller, and J.C. Wagner

Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Managed by UT-Battelle, LLC
Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6170

M. Aissa, NRC Project Manager

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

NRC Job Code Y6517

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Abstract

The purpose of this study is to provide insights into the neutronic similarities that may exist between a generic cask containing typical spent nuclear fuel assemblies and commercial reactor critical (CRC) state-points. Forty CRC state-points from five pressurized-water reactors were selected for the study and the type of CRC state-points that may be applicable for validation of burnup credit criticality safety calculations for spent fuel transport/storage/disposal systems are identified. The study employed cross-section sensitivity and uncertainty analysis methods developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the TSUNAMI set of tools in the SCALE code system as a means to investigate system similarity on an integral and nuclide-reaction specific level. The results indicate that, except for the fresh fuel core configuration, all analyzed CRC state-points are either highly similar, similar, or marginally similar to a generic cask containing spent nuclear fuel assemblies with burnups ranging from 10 to 60 GWd/MTU. Based on the integral system parameter, Ck , approximately 30 of the 40 CRC state-points are applicable to validation of burnup credit in the generic cask containing typical spent fuel assemblies with burnups ranging from 10 to 60 GWd/MTU. The state-points providing the highest similarity (Ck>0.95) were attained at or near the end of a reactor cycle. The Ck values are dominated by neutron reactions with major actinides and hydrogen, as the sensitivities of these reactions are much higher than those of the minor actinides and fission products. On a nuclide-reaction specific level, the CRC state-points provide significant similarity for most of the actinides and fission products relevant to burnup credit. A comparison of energy-dependent sensitivity profiles shows a slight shift of the CRC Keff sensitivity profiles toward higher energies in the thermal region as compared to the Keff sensitivity profile of the generic cask. Parameters representing coverage of the application by the CRCs on an energy-dependent, nuclide-reaction specific level (i.e., effectiveness of the CRCs for validating the cross sections as used in the application) were also examined. Based on the CRCs with Ck>0.8 and an assumed relative standard deviation for uncovered covariance data of 25%, the relative standard deviation of Keff due to uncovered sensitivity data varies from 0.79% to 0.95% for cask burnups ranging from 10 to 60 GWd/MTU. As expected, this uncertainty in Keff is largely dominated by noncoverage of sensitivities from major actinides and hydrogen. The contributions from fission products and minor actinides are very small and comparable to statistical uncertainties in Keff results. These results (again, assuming a 25% uncertainty for uncovered covariance data) indicate that there could be approximately 1% uncertainty in the calculated application Keff due to incomplete neutronic testing (validation) of the software by the CRCs. However, this conclusion also assumes all other uncertainties in the complex CRC configurations (e.g., isotopic compositions of burned fuel, operation history, data) are well known. Thus, an evaluation of the uncertainties in the CRC configurations is needed prior to the use of CRCs for code validation (i.e., quantifying code bias and bias uncertainty).

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