Nuclear Technology / Volume 153 / Number 2 / February 2006 / Pages 146-163
Technical Paper / Fuel Cycle and Management
This paper presents results of a feasibility study aimed at developing a zero-transuranic-discharge fuel cycle based on the U-Th-TRU ternary cycle. The design objective is to find a fuel composition (mixture of thorium, enriched uranium, and recycled transuranic components) and fuel management strategy resulting in an equilibrium charge-discharge mass flow. In such a fuel cycle scheme, the quantity and isotopic vector of the transuranium (TRU) component is identical at the charge and discharge time points, thus allowing the whole amount of the TRU at the end of the fuel irradiation period to be separated and reloaded into the following cycle. The TRU reprocessing activity losses are the only waste stream that will require permanent geological storage, virtually eliminating the long-term radiological waste of the commercial nuclear fuel cycle.
A detailed three-dimensional full pressurized water reactor (PWR) core model was used to analyze the proposed fuel composition and management strategy. The results demonstrate the neutronic feasibility of the fuel cycle with zero-TRU discharge. The amount of TRU and enriched uranium loaded reach equilibrium after about four TRU recycles. The reactivity coefficients were found to be within a range typical for a reference PWR core. The soluble boron worth is reduced by a factor of ~2 from a typical PWR value. Nevertheless, the results indicate the feasibility of an 18-month fuel cycle design with an acceptable beginning-of-cycle soluble boron concentration even without application of burnable poisons.