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Nuclear Fuel Cost Calculator - HELP

(last updated 12 Dec 2009)



This calculator performs calculations of the nominal and hidden costs of nuclear fuel. It uses the following assumptions: the uranium is purchased on the market, and it is enriched for use in light water reactors, such as pressurized water reactors (PWR) or boiling water reactors (BWR). The reactor fuel is produced from this natural uranium, no MOX is used. The spent fuel is conditioned and disposed of in a final repository, no reprocessing is used.

The material balance used for the cost calculations is presented in the Material Balance table. Upon entry of one value into any of the tables's input fields, all other fields are calculated accordingly. So, it is possible to calculate the fuel cost per tonne of uranium purchased, as well as per Gigawatt-year (GWae - this is the typical annual production of a 1300MW reactor) of electricity produced in the power plant, for example. (For more detailed material balance calculations, see the Nuclear Fuel Material Balance Calculator).

The results of the cost calculations are presented in the Cost Summary table. It shows a column for the nominal cost and another one for the "Future Waste Management Cost" not covered by the nominal cost. You can also enter a value into any of the Cost Summary table fields, instead of entering one into the material balance table. This facilitates cost comparison.

The parameters used for the calculation can be set in the Cost Parameters and Process Parameters tables. These parameters show reasonable initial values which can be modified as needed. There are no other hidden parameters used in the calculation.

See special instructions for offline use of this calculator.


Cost Parameters

All prices are in US-Dollars.
Natural Uranium: Market Price [$ per lb U3O8]
for current figures, see Current Uranium Prices

Natural Uranium: Future Waste Mgmt Cost [$ per lb U3O8 produced]
These costs mainly consist of uranium mill tailings management cost. According to a study performed by Uranerzbergbau GmbH in 1995, these costs range between 0.12 and 40.35 $ per lb U3O8 (see Costs of Uranium Mill Tailings Management). These costs should be covered by the uranium market price, but often are not. In the major cases of U.S. UMTRA Title I tailings sites and the German Wismut sites, they even exceeded the uranium market price.

Conversion: Market Price [$ per kg U]
for current figures, see Current Uranium Prices

Conversion: Future Waste Mgmt Cost [$ per kg U converted]
(no data available)

Enrichment: Market Price [$ per SWU]
for current figures, see Current Uranium Prices

Enrichment: Future Waste Mgmt Cost [$ per kg UF6 tails]
Cost for the management of the depleted uranium hexafluoride waste resulting from the enrichment process (see also Waste Management - Depleted Uranium).
There exist no reliable figures for this cost, since nearly all depleted uranium hexafluoride has been piled up at the enrichment plants so far. Some of the depleted uranium from existing stockpiles is now being re-enriched, but this results only in a minor decrease of the amount of tails (see Uranium Enrichment Tails Upgrading).
The Cost analysis report for the long term management of depleted uranium hexafluoride performed by U.S. DOE analyzes the cost for a number of management options: its estimates for the specific cost of disposal of the depleted uranium as U3O8 in cemented form in a mine are $4.57 per kg UF6. It is, however, unclear, how disposal "in a mine" shall meet the requirements for long-term containment of the uranium and its decay products growing in (such as radium). It is, therefore, more likely that the disposal has to be managed according to the requirements for spent fuel, resulting in estimated costs of 160$ per kg U (NEA's figure for Gorleben/Germany), or 110$ per kg UF6.

Fuel Fabrication: Market Price [$ per kg U]
The costs for fabrication of fuel from natural uranium, designed for burnups of 43 GWd/t U, are ranging between 200 and 400 $ per kg U (no MOX fuel considered).

Fuel Fabrication: Future Waste Mgmt Cost [$ per kg U in fuel]
(no data available)

Spent Fuel: Future Waste Mgmt Cost [$ per kg U in spent fuel]
Cost estimates for direct final disposal in a geologic repository are ranging between 60 and 290$/kg U for spent fuel transport and intermediate storage, and between 140 and 670 $ per kg U for encapsulation and disposal (no reprocessing considered).


Process Parameters

Conversion: Losses [%]
Production losses during the conversion process.

Enrichment: Product Assay [% U-235]
Weight-percent of the fissile isotope uranium-235 in the uranium contained in the product stream (enriched uranium hexafluoride) of the enrichment plant. Values for use in pressurized water reactors (PWR) range between 3.6% and 4.1%, and for use in boiling water reactors (BWR) between 3.0% and 3.2%. (Note: Natural uranium contains 0.711 wt-% of uranium-235)

Enrichment: Tails Assay [% U-235]
Weight-percent of the isotope uranium-235 in the uranium contained in the waste stream (depleted uranium hexafluoride) of the enrichment plant. Typical values range between 0.25% and 0.30%. The tails assay can be selected according to economic feasibilty.
> See graphs: Cost balance of uranium enrichment · Optimal tails assay
(Note: feed cost includes uranium price plus conversion cost)
> See also: Uranium Enrichment Cost Optimizer
For current prices, see Current Uranium Prices

Fuel Fabrication: Losses [%]
Production losses during the fuel fabrication process.

Power Plant: Fuel Burnup [GWd/t U]
Thermal energy produced in the nuclear power plant from 1 t metric tonne of enriched uranium contained in the nuclear fuel. It ranges between 40 and 43.4 GWd/t U for pressurized water reators (PWR), and 33 and 40 GWd/t U for boiling water reactors (BWR). GWd stands for Gigawatt-days, 1 GWd = 24 million kilowatt-hours.

Power Plant: Efficiency [%]
Efficiency of converting thermal energy into net electricity, ranges between 32% and 34.5%.


Calculation Details

The formulae used by the calculator for the enrichment process can be found in Wikipedia .




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