Systems analysis may guide fuel-cycle decisions
Wilson is working with researchers in the Department of Energy Global
Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) to develop systems analysis tools
to answer questions of interest.
By minimizing waste, maximizing
resources and addressing the risk of proliferation, GNEP aims to improve
the use of nuclear energy around the world. In particular, says Wilson,
researchers hope the effort will restart a U.S. spent nuclear fuel recycling
program with an engineering-scale facility for aqueous separations of
spent nuclear fuel, fuels testing in a fast flux reactor, and fast-reactor
fuel reprocessing and fabrication.
Systems analysis is guiding
the decision-making process by allowing researchers to estimate the
total system impact of different fuel-cycle decisions over a 100-year
period. The holistic approach includes a wide variety of metrics such
as the cost of electricity, the amount of spent-fuel repository space
that will be necessary, and the amount of separated plutonium that exists
at any time in the system.
With funding from the Nuclear
Energy Research Initiative, Wilson is investigating economically efficient
fuel cycles under the constraint of a single spent-fuel repository,
including new models for financing and pricing the repository space,
and what is an economically favorable fuel cycle.
Optimization methods in
systems analysis tools are emerging as an important alternative to complicated
feedback mechanisms within the systems analysis models. Wilson also
is reviewing and recommending optimization methods for a new systems
analysis tool, with funding from the Idaho National Laboratory Laboratory-Directed
Research and Development program.
To that end, for the GNEP
effort, he is implementing different optimization and decision-making
algorithms to find solutions that either optimize one variable, such
as economics, or define tradeoffs between variables, under a variety
of constraints, including repository space.