Environmental Evaluation of Accident Tolerant Fuels with Increased Enrichment and Higher Burnup Levels – Draft Report for Comment (NUREG-2266)

This publication has been issued for public comment. Comments will be accepted until October 31, 2023. To submit comments, please see Docket ID Number NRC-2023-0113.

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Publication Information

Manuscript Completed: August 2023
Date Published: August 2023

Prepared by:

Donald E. Palmrose
Seshagiri Rao Tammara
Kenneth J. Geelhood

Donald E. Palmrose, NRC Project Manager

Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001

Availability Notice


When reviewing a license amendment request (LAR) to adopt accident tolerant fuel (ATF) with increased enrichment and higher burnup levels beyond the currently licensed limits, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff will need to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of the request. Conducting complete environmental evaluations for each individual site could result in unnecessarily omplex and lengthy assessments of onsite and offsite environmental impacts. While some environmental impacts from the deployment and use of ATF will be dependent on site- and design-specific safety considerations, such as radiological effluent releases and postulated accidents, the conditions common to all light-water reactors (LWRs) for other environmental impacts could be beyond previous LWR environmental evaluations. Specifically, the anticipated enrichment levels above 5 weight percent (wt%) of uranium-235 (U-235) and burnup levels above 62 gigawatt days per metric ton of uranium (GWd/MTU) are outside the conditions supporting Table S-3 (10 CFR 51.51(b)) for uranium fuel cycle environmental impacts and the conditions for the use of Table S-4 (Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations [10 CFR] Section 51.52(c)) regarding fuel and waste transportation environmental impacts, and could affect the level of environmental impacts during decommissioning.

To support efficient and effective licensing reviews of ATFs and to reduce the need for a complex site-specific environmental review for each ATF LAR, this study evaluated the reasonably foreseeable impacts of near-term ATF technologies with increased enrichment and higher burnup levels to 8 wt% U-235 and up to 80 GWd/MTU, respectively, on the uranium fuel cycle, transportation of fuel and waste, and decommissioning for LWRs (i.e., a bounding analysis). To this end, the NRC staff assessed and applied available near-term ATF technology performance analyses, data, and studies; information from prior NRC environmental analyses; and the assessment of other publicly available data sources and studies to complete an evaluation of ATF with increased enrichment and higher burnup levels. Based on the evaluations in this study, Table S-3 and Table S-4 in the Continued Storage Generic Environmental Impact Statement, and the Decommissioning Generic Environmental Impact Statement would bound the deployment of near-term ATF for up to 8 wt% U-235 and up to 80 GWd/MTU. This study also indicates there would be no significant adverse environmental impacts for the uranium fuel cycle, transportation of fuel and wastes, and decommissioning associated with deploying near-term ATF with enrichments up to 8 wt% U-235 and peak-rod burnups up to 80 GWd/MTU.

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Friday, September 01, 2023