Fuel cycle analysis of once-through nuclear systems.

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Once-through fuel cycle systems are commercially used for the generation of nuclear power, with little exception. The bulk of these once-through systems have been water-cooled reactors (light-water and heavy water reactors, LWRs and HWRs). Some gas-cooled reactors are used in the United Kingdom. The commercial power systems that are exceptions use limited recycle (currently one recycle) of transuranic elements, primarily plutonium, as done in Europe and nearing deployment in Japan. For most of these once-through fuel cycles, the ultimate storage of the used (spent) nuclear fuel (UNF, SNF) will be in a geologic repository. Besides the commercial nuclear plants, new ... continued below

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Kim, T. K.; Taiwo, T. A. & Division, Nuclear Engineering August 10, 2010.

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Once-through fuel cycle systems are commercially used for the generation of nuclear power, with little exception. The bulk of these once-through systems have been water-cooled reactors (light-water and heavy water reactors, LWRs and HWRs). Some gas-cooled reactors are used in the United Kingdom. The commercial power systems that are exceptions use limited recycle (currently one recycle) of transuranic elements, primarily plutonium, as done in Europe and nearing deployment in Japan. For most of these once-through fuel cycles, the ultimate storage of the used (spent) nuclear fuel (UNF, SNF) will be in a geologic repository. Besides the commercial nuclear plants, new once-through concepts are being proposed for various objectives under international advanced nuclear fuel cycle studies and by industrial and venture capital groups. Some of the objectives for these systems include: (1) Long life core for remote use or foreign export and to support proliferation risk reduction goals - In these systems the intent is to achieve very long core-life with no refueling and limited or no access to the fuel. Most of these systems are fast spectrum systems and have been designed with the intent to improve plant economics, minimize nuclear waste, enhance system safety, and reduce proliferation risk. Some of these designs are being developed under Generation IV International Forum activities and have generally not used fuel blankets and have limited the fissile content of the fuel to less than 20% for the purpose on meeting international nonproliferation objectives. In general, the systems attempt to use transuranic elements (TRU) produced in current commercial nuclear power plants as this is seen as a way to minimize the amount of the problematic radio-nuclides that have to be stored in a repository. In this case, however, the reprocessing of the commercial LWR UNF to produce the initial fuel will be necessary. For this reason, some of the systems plan to use low enriched uranium (LEU) fuels. Examples of systems in this class include the small modular reactors being considered internationally; e.g. 4S [Tsuboi 2009], Hyperion Power Module [Deal 2010], ARC-100 [Wade 2010], and SSTAR [Smith 2008]. (2) Systems for Resource Utilization - In recent years, interest has developed in the use of advanced nuclear designs for the effective utilization of fuel resources. Systems under this class have generally utilized the breed and burn concept in which fissile material is bred and used in situ in the reactor core. Due to the favorable breeding that is possible with fast neutrons, these systems have tended to be fast spectrum systems. In the once-through concepts (as opposed to the traditional multirecycle approach typically considered for fast reactors), an ignition (or starter) zone contains driver fuel which is fissile material. This zone is designed to last a long time period to allow the breeding of sufficient fissile material in the adjoining blanket zone. The blanket zone is initially made of fertile depleted uranium fuel. This zone could also be made of fertile thorium fuel or recovered uranium from fuel reprocessing or natural uranium. However, given the bulk of depleted uranium and the potentially large inventory of recovered uranium, it is unlikely that the use of thorium is required in the near term in the U.S. Following the breeding of plutonium or fissile U-233 in the blanket, this zone or assembly then carries a larger fraction of the power generation in the reactor. These systems tend to also have a long cycle length (or core life) and they could be with or without fuel shuffling. When fuel is shuffled, the incoming fuel is generally depleted uranium (or thorium) fuel. In any case, fuel is burned once and then discharged. Examples of systems in this class include the CANDLE concept [Sekimoto 2001], the traveling wave reactor (TWR) concept of TerraPower [Ellis 2010], the ultra-long life fast reactor (ULFR) by ANL [Kim 2010], and the BNL fast mixed spectrum reactor (FMSR) concept [Fisher 1979]. (3) Thermal systems for resource extension - These systems were primarily considered during the INFCE/NASAP evaluations [NASAP 1979] and include various LWR designs for increasing resource utilization (both uranium and thorium). This class would include the Radkowsky seed-blanket concept. Also included in this class are the thermal reactor systems being considered for deployment as small modular reactors, such as IRIS [Carelli 2004], mPower [mPower], and NuScale [NuScale] that are all water cooled reactors. The purpose of this work is to provide relevant systems and fuel cycle information for some of these once-through fuel cycle systems. In this report, the intent is on providing information on most of the systems from open sources and from scoping studies recently done within the program. As there is insufficient fuel cycle information on the first class of systems, they are not discussed in this report.

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  • Report No.: ANL-FCRD-308
  • Grant Number: DE-AC02-06CH11357
  • DOI: 10.2172/989083 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 989083
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc1012396

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  • August 10, 2010

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Oct. 14, 2017, 8:36 a.m.

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  • Oct. 26, 2017, 7:56 p.m.

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Kim, T. K.; Taiwo, T. A. & Division, Nuclear Engineering. Fuel cycle analysis of once-through nuclear systems., report, August 10, 2010; [Illinois]. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1012396/: accessed March 23, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.