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Home / Publications / Journals / Nuclear Technology / Volume 194 / Number 2

Multiregion Annular Heterogeneous Core Concepts for Plutonium-Thorium Fuels in Pressure-Tube Heavy Water Reactors

Blair P. Bromley

Nuclear Technology / Volume 194 / Number 2 / May 2016 / Pages 192-203

Technical Paper /

First Online Publication:April 5, 2016
Updated:May 3, 2016

Pressure-tube heavy water reactors (PT-HWRs) are highly advantageous for implementing plutonium-thorium (Pu-Th) fuels because of their high neutron economy and online refueling capability. The use of annular heterogeneous seed-blanket core concepts in a PT-HWR where higher-fissile-content seed fuel bundles are physically separate from lower-fissile-content blanket bundles allows more flexibility and control in fuel management. The lattice concept modeled was a 35-element bundle made with a homogeneous mixture of reactor-grade PuO2 (67 wt% fissile) and ThO2, with a central zirconia rod to reduce coolant void reactivity. Eight annular heterogeneous seed-blanket core concepts with plutonium-thorium–based fuels in a 700-MW(electric)–class PT HWR were analyzed, using a once-through-thorium cycle. Blanket region(s) represented 50% to 75% of the total fuel volume. There were 1, 2, and 3 different blanket regions and 1, 2, and 3 different seed regions. The seed fuel tested was 3 wt% or 4 wt% PuO2, while the blanket fuel tested was 1 wt% PuO2, mixed with ThO2. The impact of different fuel combinations on the core-average burnup, fissile utilization (FU), power distributions, and other performance parameters were evaluated. WIMS-AECL 3.1 was used to perform lattice physics calculations using two-dimensional, 89-group integral neutron transport theory, while RFSP 3.5.1 was used to perform the core physics and fuel management calculations using three-dimensional two-group diffusion theory. Among the different core concepts investigated, there were cores where the FU was up to 25% higher than is achieved in a PT-HWR using natural uranium fuel bundles. There were cores where up to 60% of the Pu was consumed, cores where up to 41% of the energy was produced from 233U, and cores where up to 236 kg/yr of fissile uranium (mainly 233U) was produced in the discharged fuel. This study is an extension of previous work that involved the analysis of homogeneous cores, two-region (one seed, one blanket) and eight-region (four seeds, four blankets) annular, and checkerboard-type heterogeneous seed-blanket cores.

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