DUPIC Fuel Cycle : Direct Use of Pressurized Water Reactor Spent Fuel in CANDU

DUPIC stands for Direct Use of Pressurized Water Reactor Spent Fuel in CANDU. CANDU is the Canadian heavy water nuclear reactor. (H/T David Walters

The extra cost of DUPIC has been estimated to be six to ten percent above the once-through cost. This is far below credible estimates for the cost of the fast-reactor fuel cycle, which started at 25 percent above once-through. Moreover, there are many CANDU reactors operating around the world, with excellent in-service records. Their operating costs are well known, and competitive with those of light water reactors.

DUPIC Advantages and Technical Issues
The DUPIC technique has certain advantages:

No materials are separated during the refabrication process. Uranium, plutonium, fission products and minor actinides are kept together in the fuel powder and bound together again in the DUPIC fuel bundles.
* A high net destruction rate can be achieved of actinides and plutonium.
* Up to 25% more energy can be realised compared to other PWR used fuel recycling techniques.
* And a DUPIC fuel cycle could reduce a country¹s need for used PWR fuel disposal by 70% while reducing fresh uranium requirements by 30%.

Used nuclear fuel is highly radioactive and generates heat. This high activity means that the DUPIC manufacture process must be carried out remotely behind heavy shielding. While these restrictions make the diversion of fissile materials much more difficult and hence increase security, they also make the manufacture process more complex compared with that for the original PWR fuel, which is barely radioactive before use.

Canada, which developed the CANDU reactor, and South Korea, which hosts four CANDU units as well as many PWRs, have initiated a bilateral joint research program to develop DUPIC and the Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) has been implementing a comprehensive development program since 1992 to demonstrate the DUPIC fuel cycle concept.

KAERI believes that although it is too early to commercialise the DUPIC fuel cycle, the key technologies are in place for a practical demonstration of the technique. Challenges which remain include the development of a technology to produce fuel pellets of the correct density, the development of remote fabrication equipment and the handling of the used PWR fuel. However, KAERI successfully manufactured DUPIC small fuel elements for irradiation tests inside the HANARO research reactor in April 2000 and fabricated full-size DUPIC elements in February 2001. AECL is also able to manufacture DUPIC fuel elements.

Research is also underway on the reactor physics of DUPIC fuel and the impacts on safety systems.

A further complication is the loading of highly radioactive DUPIC fuel into the CANDU reactor. Normal fuel handling systems are designed for the fuel to be hot and highly radioactive only after use, but it is thought that the used fuel path from the reactor to cooling pond could be reversed in order to load DUPIC fuel, and studies of South Korea’s Wolsong CANDU units indicate that both the front- and rear-loading techniques could be used with some plant modification.

Used fuel from light water reactors (at normal US burn-up levels) contains approximately:

95.6% uranium (U-232: 0.1-0.3%; U-234: 0.1-0.3%; U-235: 0.5-1.0%; U-236: 4-0.7%; balance: U-238)
2.9% stable fission products
0.9% plutonium
0.3% caesium & strontium (fission products)
0.1% iodine and technetium (fission products)
0.1% other long-lived fission products
0.1% minor actinides (americium, curium, neptunium)

South Korea Nuclear Power

South Korea is now moving toward a full 60% of electricity capacity from Nuclear power (versus 40% now), which could put them close to 75% of real generation. They have now 5 1 GW-plus reactors under construction and 3 more planned to start over the next 5 years. These 3 including the last one that was started in the fall of last year, is the APR-1400, a 1350 MW ingeniously built, partially Korean designed nuclear power plant based on a Generation III+ reactor originally conceived by, but never implement by, Westinghouse on a NRC approved design known as “System 80+”.

The Koreans are also working on advanced reprocessing facilities to recover the 97% of the energy that sits in spent nuclear fuel facilities.

DUPIC Status Report from 2006

6 page DUPIC status report from 2006

The Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) established the DUPIC fuel development facility (DFDF) in 1999 to process the PWR spent fuel and to
fabricate the DUPIC fuel on a laboratory scale. In this facility, about 25 pieces of fuel fabrication equipment are installed. (Lab scale facility)

1) Decladding machine, OREOX furnace, off-gas treatment system, attrition mill and mixer to produce
DUPIC fuel powder from the PWR spent fuel
2) Compaction press, high temperature sintering furnace, center-less grinder, pellet cleaner and dryer,
pellet stack length adjuster and pellet loader to fabricate DUPIC fuel pellets
3) Remote laser welder and welding chamber to fabricate DUPIC fuel elements
4) Quality inspection devices to characterize the DUPIC fuel powder, pellets and elements.

KAERI fabricated real size DUPIC fuel elements in February 2001.

A comparison of the optical microscopy photos showed that the irradiation
behavior of the DUPIC fuel is similar to that of the standard CANDU spent fuel or PWR spent fuel of 40000 MWd/tHM.

The engineering-scale DUPIC facility will be designed with a capacity of 50 ton/yr and a plant lifetime of 40 yrs. The design also considers the expansion of the facility to a commercial-scale plant. The main process building is located in the centre, surrounded by auxiliary buildings such as a utility facility, health physics buildings, etc. The overall process can be categorized into a DUPIC fuel fabrication, a structural part recycling and a radioactive waste treatment. A detailed flow path of the main processes is as follows:
– PWR spent fuel receiving and storage
– Spent fuel disassembly and decladding (99% recovery of the fuel material from the clad)
– Fuel powder preparation by the OREOX process
– Fuel pellet fabrication with a theoretical density of more than 95%
– Fuel rod fabrication including a surface decontamination and fissile content measurement.
– Fuel bundle fabrication in the CANFLEX geometry.

Though it is yet too early to launch the commercialization of the DUPIC fuel based on the basic DUPIC fuel technologies developed until now, it is also true that the key technologies have been developed for the DUPIC fuel cycle. Therefore it is expected that there should be no technical problems to develop the commercial DUPIC fuel technology once the DUPIC fuel technology and its performance are demonstrated through a practical use of the DUPIC fuel, which will be an extremely important turning point in the history of nuclear power development. By utilizing spent fuel by an internationally-proven proliferation-resistant technology, it is expected that the burden of a spent fuel accumulation will be relieved not only in the domestic nuclear grid but also in the worldwide nuclear power industry.

Electrolytic/electrometallurgical processing techniques (‘pyroprocessing’) to separate nuclides from a radioactive waste stream have been under development in the US Department of Energy laboratories, notably Argonne, as well as by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) in conjunction with work on DUPIC

The KAERI advanced spent fuel conditioning process (ACP) involves separating uranium, transuranics including plutonium, and fission products including lanthanides. It utilises a high-temperature lithium-potassium cathode. Development of this process is at the heart of US-South Korean nuclear cooperation, and will be central to the renewal of the bilateral US-South Korean nuclear cooperation agreement in 2014, so is already receiving considerable attention in negotiations.

With US assistance through the International Nuclear Energy Research Initiative (I-NERI) program KAERI built the Advanced Spent Fuel Conditioning Process Facility (ACPF) at KAERI in 2005. KAERI hopes the project will be expanded to engineering scale by 2012, leading to the first stage of a Korea Advanced Pyroprocessing Facility (KAPF) starting in 2016 and becoming a commercial-scale demonstration plant in 2025

Older 6 page report on Korea’s DUPIC plans

Canada nuclear yearbook for 2008. 54 pages

0 thoughts on “DUPIC Fuel Cycle : Direct Use of Pressurized Water Reactor Spent Fuel in CANDU”

  1. Please note that only a tiny percent of "nuclear plant

    construction material" is ever in touch with

    radioactivity or radioactive material, and even a

    smaller portion of that becomes contaminated.

    For example a spent fuel storage tank liner (a few tons

    of steel) comes in contact with purified water

    surrounding the (highly radioactive) spent fuel rods,

    but it does not become comtaminated, nor does the

    concrete around the fuel pool, the roof, the walls and

    steel of the building, etc.

    Even in the containment building, only a tiny portion

    of the concrete and pipes have surface contamination

    that cannot be cleaned on decommissioning. (Cleaning

    generates low level wastes as well.)

    (In PWR's, nothing else gets contaminated. Some pipes

    in the turbine building of a boiling water reactor

    carry low level radioactivity. That too is only

    surface contamination.)


    Your final sheet contains "myths" about wind turbine

    power production copied from a powerpoint slide. What

    is your source for these so-called corrections. They

    absolutely do not match my actual experiences in the

    power generation industry, and in fact, those "myths"

    are not much exaggerated. Germany, UK, Dutch, Spanish

    and Danish experience in 2008-2009 with wind turbine

    production problems also shows the "myths" are close to

    the truth internationally as well.


  2. Perhaps it’s even better to compare a hypothetical 100% wind system’s total material use with that of a hypothetical 100% other system (eg coal, nuclear, or solar). This would have to include storage and transmission materials use etc. so gives a more complete picture.

    Of course, it won’t be optimal nor realistic to have all electricity provided by one source. But it may be an interesting comparison.

  3. Thanks for the extra info Brian.

    About material usage, I think there’s a way around some of the complexities: in stead of materials per “average MW” it’s better to talk about materials per GWh produced. This way, the lifetime and recyclability etc can be taken into account in the material usage analysis of different power sources.

    What do you think?

  4. Here is the 2007 Global wind energy report (72 pages) It was published March 2008

    A total of 883 turbines with a total capacity of 1,667 MW
    were installed in Germany in 2007.
    This brings the total overall installed capacity in Germany to
    22,247 MW, made up of 19,460 turbines.

    So avg size for new 2007 turbines is 2MW. Overall size avg is just over 1MW. The big 5MW versions are still a tiny fraction of new installations.

    The sector currently employs more than 100,000 people in Germany for 22.2 GW.

    The average feed-in tariff over 20 years for turbines
    installed in 2007 ranged from 8.19 euro cent/kWh (‘initial
    tariff’) to 5.17 euro cent/kWh (‘basic tariff’). The initial
    tariff is reduced by 2% every year, so it will be 8.03 to
    5.07 euro cent/kWh for turbines installed in 2008.

    By 2020, the overall German onshore capacity could be at
    45,000 MW, assuming an optimal use of sites and no general
    height restrictions for turbines, with an additional 10,000
    MW offshore. This would account for about 25% of German
    electricity consumption, or about 150 TWh/year.

    55GW with the most half better than modern (new install from 2008-2020) forecasted wind power generating 150 TWh.

    The existing nuclear power in the USA. 99GW generation 806 TWh from nuclear plants averaging about 30 years old. 55GW of nuclear would be about 440TWh.

    China, North America and Europe are where most of the new wind power will be added.

    Wind power in the USA stats from wikipedia

  5. OK i’ll be more direct and just copy my TOD post explanation here.

    While it is true that wind uses more materials than nuclear, your numbers and assertions are biased and misleading for several reasons:

    First, it is incorrect to compare to 100% capacity factor, as the real average system capacity factor of the US electrical grid is less than 45%, and this is what one should compare to when considering average capacity factor. This lowers material input for wind by more than 50%.

    Second, the capacity factor you referenced is very low, good locations in the US get 30-40%, which is close to the average capacity factor in the US. Moreover, consider the correlation with the load to be more indicative than capacity factor. Not good for wind, but with CAES this can be cost-effectively dealt with; the CAES equipment is similar to NG turbines, i.e. they have low materials input so this won’t fundamentally increase the materials input for wind. And anyways, a nuke would also need something like CAES to compensate for high capacity factor (ie miscorrelation with the load). Nuclear load following might be an option for near term nuclear technologies, but this lowers output and thus EROI. Which is quite unacceptable I’m sure.

    Third, 1990’s vintage windmill tech is not ‘modern’ – a 5MWe 21st century windmill should be used for that purpose. These use materials more efficiently. By contrast, 21st century LWRs have only slightly lower materials requirements, if indeed they are lower at all.

    Fourth, the energy gain that light water reactors get over wind from less materials input is strongly reduced by the energy required for enrichment, which is the biggest lifecycle energy requirement for light water reactors’ kWhs.

    Fifth, the energy gain compared to wind is further reduced by the high recycle percentage of wind power systems. Nuclear power actually requires significant amounts of energy to decomission the plant, while not being able to recycle much of the materials due to high radioactivity levels.

    Sixth, your numbers assume 15 year windmill life, which is rather low-balled and thus indicates bias. But perhaps this has more to do with the assumption of 1990’s windmills. In adittion, the fifth argument above makes the shorter lifespan less of an issue.

    HINT: for a strong argument, think about the broadly similar ballpark EROI estimates of wind and nuclear LWR – when using reasonable numbers for both of course, a bit of bias could make any of the two come out favourably. But even then the difference is NOT as high as you imply with your focus on materials input alone.

    Seventh, wind uses mostly commodities such as concrete and steel, which don’t have strict resource limitations, the bottlenecks are mostly in production capacity. So the amount of commodity inputs is not an inherent showstopper if strategically planned. What is more of a showstopper, is highly specialized and exotic materials and equipment requirements for modern nuclear powerplants. These are likely a bit more difficult to scale up than commodity production facilities like concrete and steel.

    Eighth, using moderate technological optimism, wind becomes much better, for example Tubercle technology could dramatically increase output especially with lower wind speeds but with high wind speeds as well. Or superconducting turbines, larger turbine sizes, or novel materials such as advanced composites etc. With a similar amount of optimism, there are advances in LWRs such as MIT’s uprating techs.

    Bottom line: you’ve made the fallacy of not taking a system and holistic perspective.

    You said you questioned the sensitivity of these points. True, but you should still mention them for full disclosure. It’s a complex issue. I think that commodities materials are manageable issue considering it’s possible to quickly ramp up production – concrete and steel are not exactly rare materials – and also feel that nuclear vs wind is apples and oranges. Like you said, getting away from coal is the goal.

  6. I had already commented on that oildrum thread under the display name advancednano.

    In terms of EROI

    I had written on this last year

    STarting in 2012 laser enrichment will be commercialized by GE which will improve the energy and cost picture for enrichment by three times or more

    Uranium: 8.9 kg U3O8 x $58==>$472 Conversion: 7.5 kg U x $12==>$90 Enrichment: 7.3 SWU x $135==>985 [Silex could reduce this by 3-10 times]Fuel fabrication: per kg $240 Total, approx: US$ 1787 would become $1050 or less

    Energy efficiency analysis

    PJ per GWe over 40 years.

    Mining & milling 1.6
    Conversion 9.2
    Enrichment 3.3 centrifuge [23.1 diffusion]
    Fuel fabrication 5.8
    Build, operate & decommission
    plant 4.1 to 30.7
    Waste management 1.5
    TOTAL 52.1 PJ

    1.3-2.9% of energy produced

    With laser enrichment the enrichment figure falls to 1 PJ.
    Plant decommissioning is not so high if the crappy UK plants are not built.

    Waste management becomes almost zero if the unburned fuel is saved and used for better reactors (Molten salt, uranium hydride, accelerator driven etc…)

  7. The issue of material usage, land usage and labor goes to the issue of scaling.

    Things that use less material, land and labor can be better scaled to higher levels.

    Humanity needs a lot more energy. Not just replacing coal and oil to get to clean energy which needs to be done but getting ten times or hundred times more so that every can be rich. To deny people who are poor now the capacity to become rich is a bad plan.

    This article only covers part of the issues around energy which is why there are several hundred articles on this site around the issues on energy. But I will take a look at the link. I have been looking at and participating in oildrum discussions for over one year.

  8. If Calera cement is widely adopted over the next 10 years, then the amount of cement used could become a virtue. Calera cement will remove 1 ton of CO2 from the air for each ton of cement


    I believe that nuclear power (with the massive build from China) will have more impact in terms of providing clean energy than other sources. And worst/best case (where there is massive, massive improvement in solar and wind) nuclear still provides a big clean energy boost and should be used with advanced Concentrated solar and wind.

    Any 20-25 year adjustment for wind power life does not change the scale of conclusion much that wind uses several times more steel and cement to get the same power. This would only change with redesigned wind like Kitegen.

    There are better nuclear designs like High temp reactors.

  9. The origin of the chart is from a presentation by Per Peterson which I have linked to in the prior article with updated nuclear power numbers. It is at the top of this article. Click through to the one covering updated nuclear numbers.

    Link again:

    Note: he cites his sources as well

    Also note that the point of this article was to update the wind numbers.

    If the average lifespan of nuclear reactors is 60 years (for US reactors) then some can be decommissioned earlier if others are decommissioned later and the avg to come out the same. This is especially true when lifespan is weighted by the size of the reactors.

    If the avg lifespan of someone in the USA is 75 then one would expect some to die early but some last longer.

    The nuclear plants that get extended are the ones that are running better and worth maintaining. Just like at some point it is not worth maintaining a house or car.

    I like both wind and nuclear as well. I want to see coal use stopped first and reduction of oil usage as much as possible.

    Average wind capacity factor has been only 25% in Europe and europe is where most of the wind power is. Wind power capacity factors can and probably will be improved as noted at the bottom of the article. This is especially the case if Kitegen and other systems tapping higher and more consistent winds is adopted. I also show the slide from the NREL which indicates that the intermittency can be somewhat compensated with operational and other methods.

  10. I can’t track down the origin of the chart you’re showing. The numbers look highly suspicious to me. (Please note: I’m not against nuclear power, but I am trying to cut through the extensive propaganda being deployed on both sides of the nuclear/renewables debate, and this piece looks suspiciously like propaganda to me.) If the lifespan of a nuclear power reactor is 60 years, there shouldn’t be any decommissioned ones, should there? But there are 28 in the US alone, 14 of which are more than 100 MW plants. On the other hand, why measure wind power costs based on 1990s figures when the signifcant numbers are all current? Current windmills last 20+ years, not 15 (see Vestas’ figures), and their capacity factor can be over 30%+ when they are networked.

    I think nuclear still wins here, assuming you’re not counting extra labour and manufacturing intensity as a plus (the 250,000 jobs in Germany from wind power are a plus to the 250,000 people doing them).

    Wind vs. nuclear seems more and more to be an apples vs. oranges debate. I like both.


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