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Fusion-Fission Blanket Options for the LIFE Engine

Kevin J. Kramer et al.

Fusion Science and Technology

Volume 60 / Number 1 / July 2011 / Pages 72-77


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The Laser Inertial Fusion Energy (LIFE) concept is being developed to operate as either a pure fusion or hybrid fusion-fission system. The hybrid version is designed to generate power and burn both fertile and fissile nuclear fuel. The fuel blanket is composed of TRISO-based fuel cooled by a molten salt. Low-yield (~25-40 MJ) targets and a repetition rate of ~10-15 Hz produce a 300-500 MW fusion source. When this fusion power is coupled to a compact (2-4 m diameter) target chamber, a 14 MeV neutron flux of ~2 × 1014 n/cm2-s drives fissile production and destruction in the fuel blanket providing an additional energy gain of 4-8, depending on the fuel and design objective.

We employ a methodology using 6Li as a neutron absorber to generate self-sustaining tritium production for fusion and to maintain constant power over the lifetime of the engine. In a single pass, fertile LIFE blankets achieve uranium and thorium utilization beyond 80% without chemical reprocessing or isotopic enrichment. Fissile blankets destroy more than 90% of the initial load of weapons grade plutonium or highly enriched uranium.

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