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NE 124

Course Title: 
Radioactive Waste Management
Course Units: 
Catalog Description: 
  • Components and material flow sheets for nuclear fuel cycle, waste characteristics, sources of radioactive wastes, compositions, radioactivity and heat generation; waste treatment technologies; waste disposal technologies; safety assessment of waste disposal.
Course Prerequisite: 
  • Upper division course in Engineering Analysis (Engin. 117) or equivalent
Prerequisite Knowledge and/or Skills: 
  • Mathematics up to ordinary and partial differential equations, including their solutions methods, such as Laplace transform
  • Basic thermodynamics, including chemical equilibrium
  • Basic mechanisms and structure of light-water reactors
  • Basic concepts of radioactive decay and radioactivity
  • Behavior of neutrons in light-water reactors
Course Objectives: 
  • review nuclear fuel cycle schemes for commercial nuclear power reactors
  • analyze quantitatively the quantity, the compositions, and the form of radioactive wastes
  • characterize radioactive wastes based on the analysis of radioactive waste generation
  • review available technologies for radioactive waste treatment for volume reduction, stabilization, and storage
  • analyze quantitatively the change of radioactivity, radio-toxicity, and heat generation resulting from radioactive wastes with time
  • review on-going research and development for geologic disposal of radioactive wastes and compare it with other disposal options, such as space disposal, and partitioning and transmutation.
  • illustrate safety assessment for the proposed Yucca Mountain repository for US commercial spent fuel with simplified models
Course Outcomes: 
  • quantitatively estimate the volume, the compositions, and the radioactivity of radioactive wastes generated per GW electricity generated by a light water reactor
  • classify radioactive wastes into high, low, and TRU wastes
  • calculate the radio-toxicity of the radioactive wastes
  • quantitatively estimate the mass of radionuclide that can be included in the waste canister
  • quantitatively evaluate radionuclide transport in the repository and in the region exterior to the repository as functions of time
  • interpret the quantitative results of the repository safety assessment in the context of repository safety to the public
Topics Covered: 

I.  Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Radioactive Waste Generation

  • Radioactive wastes from fuel cycle activities (mining and milling, uranium enrichment, fuel fabrication, reactor operation, and reprocessing)
  • Classification and amount of radioactive wastes (low-level wastes, high-level wastes: radioactivities, toxicity)

II. Radioactive Waste Treatment Technologies

  • Volume reduction and solidification of LLW
  • Spent fuel storage
  • Vitrification of reprocessing HLW
  • Solidification of TRU wastes
  • Effect of nuclear material recycling on waste generation

III. Radioactive Waste Disposal Technologies

  • Disposal technologies for LLW
  • Disposal technologies for HLW: Multi-barrier concept, heat analysis for buried HLW.

IV. Safety Assessment of Geological Disposal

  • Regulations and standards for the proposed Yucca Mountain repository for spent fuel
  • Mathematical performance assessment of Yucca Mountain repository: hydrology, radionuclide release, radionuclide transport.
Textbook(s) and/or Other Required Materials: 
  • Nuclear Chemical Engineering, 2nd Ed., M. Benedict, T. H. Pigford, and H. Levi, McGraw-Hill, 1981
  • The Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Analysis and Management, R. G. Cochran and N. Tsoulfanidis, America Nuclear Society, 1990
  • Course Reader: prepared by J. Ahn
Class/Laboratory Schedule: 
  • Three 50-minute lectures per week;
  • Office hours held by the teaching assistant and by the instructor
Contribution of Course to Meeting the Professional Component: 
  • This course contributes primarily to the students' knowledge of engineering topics, and does provide design experience.
  • Environmental impacts by radioactive wastes arising from commercial nuclear power generation, especially high-level radioactive wastes (HLW) containing long-lived radionuclides, are considered to be the most contentious, due to the long time scale involved. For an enduring nuclear fuel cycle to be accepted by the public, a clear vision should be presented of the quantity and the toxicity of wastes arising from the enduring system.
  • NE 124 is required for students in the Radioactive Waste Management area of emphasis in the three-part division of the Department's curriculum. This course gives, through specific examples, quantitative analyses for radioactive waste management, with which students can understand difficulties and current issues on radioactive waste management. Design-related features of the course include the calculations of fuel-cycle mass flow, radioactivity generated per GW electricity generation, temperature distributions in the engineered barrier of the geologic repository, and the transport of radionuclides in geologic formations.
Relationship of Course to Degree Program Objectives: 
  • This course primarily serves students in the department. The information below describes how the course contributes to the undergraduate program objectives.
  • This course contributes to the radioactive-waste-management component of the Department's program objectives by providing education in the important subdiscipline of radioactive wastes. It prepares students for work in the nuclear-fuel-cycle-related, and/or the waste-management-related groups in nuclear utilities, reactor vendors, government agencies, as well as providing them with a solid background should they wish to pursue graduate work in this area.
Assessment of Student Progress Toward Course Objectives: 
  • Problem sets (ten in the semester): 30%
  • One midterm exam: 30%
  • Final exam: 40%