This is how Enea studies the recycling of nuclear fuel

Improve the sustainability and performance of fourth-generation nuclear reactors by promoting the recycling of spent fuel to reduce long-lived waste. This is the goal Project Pumma (Plutonium Management for More Agility) involving 20 partners from 12 European countries, incl Aeneas for Italy. Specifically, the project, co-financed by the Euratom programme, aims to evaluate the impact of high plutonium content (around 40%) in the nuclear fuel of fast reactors and to explore the possible impacts on safety and performance, but also scenarios for the integration of technologies with those currently in use, for increasingly sustainable nuclear energy. In short, although uranium is not completely depleted (although the cost of enriching this material and therefore the production costs of the entire production cycle are increasing), we are considering the maximum expansion of nuclear fission technology by replacing the components that create the “fuel” to make the plants work, due to cost, but also for reasons of environmental protection, sustainability and safety.

By using Mox, a fuel composed of a mixture of uranium oxide and plutonium, it is possible to obtain a more sustainable nuclear fuel available in large quantities. – explains Alessandro Del Nevo, head of Enea’s experimental engineering division in the nuclear department and project coordinator – However, it is a fuel whose behavior must continue to be studied in order to improve its performance and guarantee adequate plant safety. project activities include both simulations through modeling and software and experimental analyzes Already available data on Mox with high plutonium content, irradiated and analyzed through destructive and non-destructive tests were used for the tests promising but we need to improve our models based mainly on experimental data on traditional water reactors,” explains Del Nevo.


Specifically, Enea, together with seven other partners, contributes to simulation and modeling activities with the aim of increasing knowledge about the behavior of materials used during reactor operation – the agency further explains – the nuclear fuel “tablets”, stacked inside the cylindrical rods, together with the outer jacket of the rod itself, represent the first barriers against release of fission products.

“Understanding how the materials from which the ‘tablets’ are made can be deformed or damaged by radiation is critical to increasing fuel reliability and extending fuel life without reducing safety margins,” adds Del Nevo – In During the project’s significant The milestone was achieved by replicating the behavior of nuclear fuel using Finite Element Method (FEM) analysis, a simulation technique that allows the structural behavior of a complex system to be calculated by breaking it down into a large number of elements that can be better solved easily.”


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