Nuclear Fuel Recycling – the Value of the Separated Transuranics and the Levelized Cost of Electricity
Guillaume De Roo and John E. Parsons
We analyze the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for three different fuel cycles: a Once-Through Cycle, in which the spent fuel is sent for disposal after one use in a reactor, a Twice-Through Cycle, in which the spent fuel is recycled for a second use in a light water reactor after which the spent fuel is sent for disposal, and a Fast Reactor Recycle in which all of the transuranics are repeatedly recycled in fast reactors. We carefully define the LCOE and provide a simple solution method that involves simultaneously calculating the value of the recycled materials, whether plutonium or the transuranics. We parameterize our formulas and calculate the LCOEs. Earlier reports do not provide general formulas and solution methods for calculating the LCOE. We contrast our methodology with the definitions and solution methods employed in various prior reports, and we compare our parameter inputs and resulting LCOEs. For example, we show that the “equilibrium cost” of fast reactor systems as calculated in other studies exaggerates the LCOE. Our calculations show that, based on current estimates of the costs for the various activities, recycling increases the LCOE by between 1.7 and 2.8 mills/kWh. This is an approximately 20-34% increase in the fuel cycle cost of the Once-Through Cycle, which we estimate at 8.28 mill/kWh. This is an approximately 2-4% increase in the total LCOE of the Once-Through Cycle, which we estimate at 75.32 mill/kWh. For the Twice- Through Cycle, the separated plutonium has a negative value, meaning that a reactor will have to be paid to take the recycled plutonium. For the Fast Reactor Cycle, the separated transuranics have a negative value, meaning that a fast reactor will have to be paid to take the transuranics.