Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Materials and Nuclear Engineering


Mechanical Engineering

First Committee Member

William Culbreth, Chair

Second Committee Member

Charlotta Sanders

Third Committee Member

Mohamed Trabia

Graduate Faculty Representative

Kaushik Ghosh

Number of Pages



When representing the behavior of commercial spent nuclear fuel (SNF), credit is sought for the reduced reactivity associated with the net depletion of fissile isotopes and the creation of neutron-absorbing isotopes, a process that begins when a commercial nuclear reactor is first operated at power. Burnup credit accounts for the reduced reactivity potential of a fuel assembly and varies with the fuel burnup, cooling time, and the initial enrichment of fissile material in the fuel. With regard to long-term SNF disposal and transportation, tremendous benefits, such as increased capacity, flexibility of design and system operations, and reduced overall costs, provide an incentive to seek burnup credit for criticality safety evaluations.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued Interim Staff Guidance 8, Revision 2 in 2002, endorsing burnup credit of actinide composition changes only; credit due to actinides encompasses approximately 30% of exiting pressurized water reactor SNF inventory and could potentially be increased to 90% if fission product credit were accepted. However, one significant issue for utilizing full burnup credit, compensating for actinide and fission product composition changes, is establishing a set of depletion parameters that produce an adequately conservative representation of the fuel's isotopic inventory. Depletion parameters can have a significant effect on the isotopic inventory of the fuel, and thus the residual reactivity.

This research seeks to quantify the reactivity impact on a system from dominant depletion parameters (i.e., fuel temperature, moderator density, burnable poison rod, burnable poison rod history, and soluble Boron concentration). Bounding depletion parameters were developed by statistical evaluation of a database containing reactor operating histories. The database was generated from summary reports of commercial reactor criticality data. Through depletion calculations, utilizing the SCALE 6 code package, several light water reactor assembly designs and in-core locations are analyzed in establishing a combination of depletion parameters that conservatively represent the fuel's isotopic inventory as an initiative to take credit for fuel burnup in criticality safety evaluations for transportation and storage of SNF.


Burnup credit; Depletion parameter; Fuel burnup (Nuclear engineering); Spent reactor fuels


Environmental Sciences | Mechanical Engineering | Nuclear Engineering