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Core Design and Fuel Management Studies of a Thorium-Breeder Pebble Bed High-Temperature Reactor

Frank Wols, Jan Leen Kloosterman, Danny Lathouwers, Tim Van Der Hagen

Nuclear Technology

Volume 186 / Number 1 / April 2014 / Pages 1-16


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An inherently safe thorium-breeder pebble bed reactor has great potential to improve the safety and sustainability of nuclear energy. The aim of this work is to determine the conditions under which breeding is possible in a thorium-breeder pebble bed reactor (PBR) and to present possible core designs for such a reactor. A method is developed to calculate the equilibrium core configuration of a thorium-breeder PBR, consisting of a driver channel and a breed channel. The SCALE system is used for cross-section generation and fuel depletion, and a two-dimensional (r,z)-flux profile is obtained using the DALTON neutron diffusion code. With the code scheme, the influence of several geometrical, operational, and fuel management parameters on breeding capability can be studied. Four fuel reprocessing schemes are investigated. The first scheme recycles breeder pebbles into the driver channel after some delay for additional 233Pa decay. The second scheme reprocesses the discharged breeder pebbles to make driver pebbles with higher 233U content. The third scheme also reprocesses the uranium isotopes from the discharged driver pebbles. Criticality, and thus breeding, can only be achieved in practice for this case. The fourth scheme, which adjusts the driver pebble residence time to find a critical core, is used to design a thorium-breeder PBR under practical operating conditions. A breeder reactor can even be achieved for a 150-cm core diameter, the same as for the uranium-fueled HTR-PM, but the design presented operates at a significantly lower reactor power, 71 MW(thermal) compared with 250 MW(thermal).

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