Nuclear Technology / Volume 160 / Number 1 / October 2007 / Pages 80-99
Technical Paper / Annular Fuel
Up to 50% increase in the power density of the existing pressurized water reactor (PWR)-type reactors can be achieved by the use of internally and externally cooled annular fuel geometry. As a result, the accumulated stockpiles of Pu, especially if incorporated in fertile-free inert matrix, can be burnt at a substantially higher rate as compared with the conventional mixed oxide-fueled reactors operating at standard power density. In this work, we explore the basic feasibility of a PWR core fully loaded with Pu incorporated in fertile-free fuel of annular internally and externally cooled geometry and operating at 150% of nominal power density. We evaluate basic burnable poison designs, fuel management strategies, and reactivity feedback coefficients. The three-dimensional full core neutronic analysis performed with Studsvik Core Management System showed that the design of such a Pu-loaded annular fuel core is feasible but significantly more challenging than the Pu fertile-free core with solid fuel pins operating at nominal power density. The main difficulty arises from the fact that the annular fuel core requires at least 50% higher initial Pu loading in order to maintain the standard fuel cycle length of 18 months. Such a high Pu loading results in hardening of the neutron spectrum and consequent reduction in reactivity worth of all reactivity control mechanisms and, in some cases, positive moderator temperature coefficient (MTC). The use of isotopically enriched Gd and Er burnable poisons was found to be beneficial with respect to maximizing Pu burnup and reducing power peaking factors. Overall, the annular fertile-free Pu-loaded high-power-density core appears to be feasible, although it still has relatively high power peaking and potential for slightly positive MTC at beginning of cycle. However, we estimate that limiting the power density to 140% of the nominal case would assure acceptable core power peaking and negative MTC at all times during the cycle.