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A Neutronic Investigation of the Use of Fully Ceramic Microencapsulated Fuel for Pu/Np Burning in PWRs

Cole Gentry, Ivan Maldonado, Andrew Godfrey, Kurt Terrani, Jess Gehin, Jeffrey Powers

Nuclear Technology

Volume 186 / Number 1 / April 2014 / Pages 60-75


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An investigation of the utilization of TRistructural-ISOtropic (TRISO)-coated fuel particles for the burning of plutonium/neptunium (Pu/Np) isotopes in typical Westinghouse four-loop pressurized water reactors is presented. Though numerous studies have evaluated the burning of transuranic isotopes in light water reactors (LWRs), this work differentiates itself by employing Pu/Np-loaded TRISO particles embedded within a silicon carbide (SiC) matrix and formed into pellets, constituting the fully ceramic microencapsulated (FCM) fuel concept that can be loaded into standard LWR fuel element cladding. This approach provides the capability of Pu/Np burning and, by virtue of the multibarrier TRISO particle design and SiC matrix properties, will allow for greater burnup of Pu/Np material, plus improved fuel reliability and thermal performance. In this study, a variety of heterogeneous assembly layouts, which utilize a mix of FCM rods and typical UO2 rods, and core loading patterns were analyzed to demonstrate the neutronic feasibility of Pu/Np-loaded TRISO fuel. The assembly and core designs herein reported are not fully optimized and require fine-tuning to flatten power peaks; however, the progress achieved thus far strongly supports the conclusion that with further rod/assembly/core loading and placement optimization, Pu/Np-loaded TRISO fuel and core designs that are capable of balancing Pu/Np production and destruction can be designed within the standard constraints for thermal and reactivity performance in pressurized water reactors.

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