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Sep14-11, 04:55 PM
P: 595
Quote Quote by cragwolf View Post
I want to know how much radioactivity in Becquerels is produced by a typical light water reactor in one year of operation.

I don't know how one would go about estimating this number. ... I don't really know how radioactive spent fuel is per kg.
It's fairly easy to get a rough estimate from publicly available data.

For example, says "After one year, typical spent nuclear fuel generates about 10 kW of decay heat per tonne, decreasing to about 1 kW/t after ten years."

So, let's consider ten year old spent fuel. One 1 kW/t is 1 W/kg = 1 J/(s*kg). Since all this heat is produced solely by radioactive decay, it means that radiation inside spent fuel pellets is 1 Gray/s. (In other words, it's still insanely radioactive).

Since after 10 years most short-lived isotopes have decayed, most of this radioactivity is caused by 30-year half-life isotopes Cs-137 and Sr-90 (see Sr-90 is pure beta emitter, so if fuel is intact, it goes not give off much gammas. Gammas are mostly from Cs-137.

Very roughly, we can assume that about half of the radiation is produced by gamma-active Cs-137. Decay energy of Cs-137 is 1.176 MeV. 1 MeV is 1.602*10^-13 J. Thus decay energy of one decay is 1.884*10^-13 J. In order to generate 0.5 J/s (0.5 W), how many decays of Cs-137 do we need? About 2.5*10^12.

That's the answer you seek: the gamma activity of intact spent fuel after 10 years cool down is about 2.5 Terabecquerels per kg.