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Ensuring a role for nuclear in the response to climate change
Nuclear power is an important tool in the response to climate change, and advanced reactors may offer advantages over existing plants in providing carbon-free generation at the scale necessary to respond to the existential challenge that climate change presents. The International Atomic Energy Agency is aggressively addressing issues related to the possible transition to advanced reactors. This letter is to urge a redoubling of effort by Member States to put in place the necessary capabilities to deal with the challenges that they present.
Timothy Ault, Steven Krahn, Andrew Worrall, Allen Croff
Nuclear Technology | Volume 204 | Number 1 | October 2018 | Pages 41-58
Technical Paper | dx.doi.org/10.1080/00295450.2018.1468702
Articles are hosted by Taylor and Francis Online.
Certain characteristics of heavy water reactors (HWRs), such as a more flexible neutron economy compared to light water (due to reduced absorptions in hydrogen), online refueling capability, and having a thermal neutron spectrum, make them potentially attractive for use with a thorium fuel cycle. Three options that combine HWRs with thorium-based fuels are considered in this paper: a Near-Term option with minimal advanced technology requirements, an Actinide Management option that incorporates the recycle of minor actinides (MAs), and a Thorium-Only option that uses two reactor stages to breed and consume 233U, respectively. Simplified, steady-state simulations and corresponding material flow analyses are used to elucidate the properties of these fuel cycle options. The Near-Term option begins with a low-enriched uranium oxide pressurized water reactor (PWR) that discharges spent nuclear fuel, from which uranium and plutonium are recovered to fabricate the driver fuel for an HWR that uses thorium oxide as a blanket fuel. This option uses 28% less natural uranium (NU) and sends 33% less plutonium to disposal than the conventional once-through uranium fuel cycle on an energy-normalized basis. The Actinide Management option also uses spent nuclear fuel from a PWR using enriched uranium oxide fuel (both a low- and high-enrichment variant are considered), but the uranium is recycled for reuse in the PWR while the plutonium and MAs are recycled and used in conjunction with thorium in an HWR with full recycle. Both enrichment variants of this option achieve a more than 95% reduction in transuranic actinide disposal rates compared to the once-through option and a more than 60% reduction compared to closed transuranic recycle in a uranium-plutonium–fueled sodium fast reactor. The Thorium-Only option breeds a surplus of 233U in a thorium-based HWR to supply fissile material to a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor, both of which recycle uranium and thorium. This option requires no NU and produces few transuranic actinides at steady state, although it would require a greater technology maturation effort than the other options studied. Collectively, the options considered in this study are intended to illustrate the range of operational missions that could be supported by fleets that integrate thorium and HWRs.