Reactor core transient analysis of innovative high-level nuclear waste transmuter with metal fuel

Significance Statement

Nuclear energy presents a sustainable energy supply and cheap electricity. It has been indicated to minimize the emission of greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, nuclear energy also has some shortcomings in sustainability. One important issue on this emanates from the disposal of spent fuels discharged from the reactors. Therefore, transmutation and partitioning of the minor actinides in the spent fuels will be necessary for the self-sustainment of the nuclear industry.
The radiotoxic inventory of the geological repositories will be reduced up to a factor of 100 if minor actinides and plutonium will be completely transmuted and recycled. Researchers have indeed investigated extensively with varying fuel cycle strategies, reactor systems and neutron spectrums. Fast reactors have been identified as the most promising candidates.
Unfortunately, transmuting minor actinides in fast reactors have been found to have significat safety concerns on the performance of the reactor cores. It has been demonstrated that the high amount of minor actinides such as neptunium and americium, initiates severe deterioration of coolant density reactivity feedback in the heavy-liquid-metal-cooled fast reactors. Researchers have found that it is important to reduce the core power by about 4% for every 1% addition of americium loaded in a lead-cooled fast reactor. If minor actinides are added in a reactor core, its neutronic safety performance becomes worse.
Since the economy of a nuclear reactor is dictated by the operational power level, it is uneconomical to undertake minor actinides transmutation in a critical fast reactor, which must be operated in a reduced power level in a bid to maintain sufficient safety margin. Fortunately, the accelerator driven subcritical system has a larger safety margin in minor actinides transmutation as opposed to the critical fast reactors.
In view of the fact that transmutation in the current operational reactors is insufficient and poses some safety concerns, Professor Youqi Zheng and colleagues from Xian Jiaotong University, China, proposed an accelerator-driven subcritical transmuter, which was named highly efficient industrial transmuter (HEIT) in a move to address these concerns. Their research work is published in International Journal of Energy Research.
The proposed system utilizes uranium-free metallic dispersion fuel and has high power density. The authors focused on the transient analysis of the highly efficient industrial transmuter in order to stablish its feasibility in the future nuclear applications. They analyzed cladding stresses, cumulative creep damage fractions and temperatures. In addition, the researchers investigated the burnup dependence and evaluated three transients: the beam overpower, the unprotected transient overpower, and the unprotected loss of flow.
The authors observed that the highly efficient industrial transmuter core remained safe without scram in a majority of transient cases. From the results, there was indicated that there will be enough safety margins from fuel pin failure. In the unprotected loss of flow transient, the cladding cloud exceeded the rapture limit in approximately half an hour when no shutdown responded. This was reference to the positive coolant density coefficient caused by the minor actinides loading.
The creep damage fraction as well as the maximum temperature was observed to change with the depletion owing to the delay heat fraction and power distribution variation. For the unprotected loss of flow transient, the end of lifetime was bounding, while for the case of beam overpower and unprotected transient overpower transients, both the end of lifetime and the beginning of lifetime ought to have been accommodated.

Reactor core transient analysis of an innovative high-level nuclear waste transmuter with metal fuel. Renewable Energy Global Innovations

About the author

Youqi Zheng
Associate Professor
School of Nuclear Science and Technology
Xi’an Jiaotong University
Xi’an, Shaanxi 710049, China
Tel: +86-29-82668692 Fax: +86-29-82668916
Email: [email protected]


Ph.D, Nuclear Science and Technology, Xi’an Jiaotong University, 2011
B.D, Nuclear Engineering and Technology, Xi’an Jiaotong University, 2006


Jan. 2014- …, Associate Professor, School of Nuclear Science and Technology, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an, China.
Anchor July. 2015- July. 2016, Post-doctoral researcher, Ulsan Institute of Science and Technology, Ulsan, Korea.
Apr. 2011- Dec. 2013, Lecturer, School of Nuclear Science and Technology, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an, China.

Research Fields:

Reactor physics; Advanced nuclear reactor R&D; High-level nuclear waste transmutation; Computational method for reactor core analysis


First Class Prizes of Shaanxi Technical Invention Award, 2017
Third Class Prizes of China National Nuclear Corporation Scientific and Technological Progress Award, 2017
Young Talent Supporting Project of Chinese Association for Science and Technology, 2015
Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award in Shannxi Province, 2013

Selected Publications:

  1. Youqi Zheng*, Xunzhao Li, Hongchun Wu, Effect of high-energy neutron source on predicting the proton beam current in the ads design, Nuclear Engineering and Technology, in press,
  2. Youqi Zheng, Sooyoung Choi, Deokjung Lee. A new approach to three-dimensional neutron transport solution based on the method of characteristics and linear axial approximation, Journal of Computational Physics, 111: 271-279, 2018.
  3. Youqi Zheng, Deokjung Lee, Peng Zhang, et al. Comparisons of S-N and Monte-Carlo methods in PWR ex-core detector response simulation, Annals of Nuclear Energy, 101: 139-150, 2017.
  4. Youqi Zheng*, Yunlong Xiao, Hongchun Wu, Application of the virtual density theory in fast reactor analysis based on the neutron transport calculation, Nuclear Engineering and Design, 320: 200–206, 2017.
  5. Youqi Zheng*, Mingtao He, Liangzhi Cao, et al., Reactor core transient analysis of an innovative high-level nuclear waste transmuter with metal fuel, International Journal of Energy Research, 41(9): 1322-1334, 2017.
  6. Mingtao He, Youqi Zheng*, Hongchun Wu, et al. Assessment of transient characteristics of fast reactors and influences of minor actinides using neutron transport method, International Journal of Energy Research, 41(14): 2194-2205, 2017.
  7. Anchor Mingtao He, Hongchun Wu, Youqi Zheng*, et al. Beam transient analyses of Accelerator Driven Subcritical Reactors based on neutron transport method, Nuclear Engineering and Design, 295: 489–499, 2015.
  8. Xunzhao Li, Shengcheng Zhou, Youqi Zheng*, et al. Preliminary studies of a new accelerator-driven minor actinide burner in industrial scale, Nuclear Engineering and Design 292: 57–68, 2015.
  9. Yunlong Xiao, Hongchun Wu, Youqi Zheng*, et al. Neutronics studies on the feasibility of developing fast breeder reactor with flexible breeding ratio. Journal of Nuclear Science and Technology, 53(1): 129-138, 2015.
  10. AnchorAnchor Youqi Zheng, Hongchun Wu, Liangzhi Cao, et al. Daubechies’ Wavelet Method for Angular Solution of the Neutron Transport Equation. Nuclear Science and Engineering, 164(2): 87-104, 2010.


Youqi Zheng, Mingtao He, Liangzhi Cao, Hongchun Wu, Xunzhao Li and Shengcheng Zhou. Reactor core transient analysis of an innovative high-level nuclear waste transmuter with metal fuel. International Journal of Energy Research, volume 41 (2017), pages 1322–1334.


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