Performance of Thorium-Based Mixed Oxide Fuels for the Consumption of Plutonium and Minor Actinides in Current and Advanced Reactors

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A renewed interest in thorium-based fuels has arisen lately based on the need for proliferation resistance, longer fuel cycles, higher burnup and improved wasteform characteristics. Recent studies have been directed toward homogeneously mixed, heterogeneously mixed, and seed-and-blanket thorium-uranium fuel cycles that rely on "in situ" use of the bred-in U-233. However, due to the higher initial enrichment required to achieve acceptable burnups, these fuels are encountering economic constraints. Thorium can nevertheless play a large role in the nuclear fuel cycle; particularly in the reduction of plutonium. While uranium-based mixedoxide (MOX) fuel will decrease the amount of plutonium, the reduction is ... continued below

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Weaver, Kevan Dean & Herring, James Stephen June 1, 2002.

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A renewed interest in thorium-based fuels has arisen lately based on the need for proliferation resistance, longer fuel cycles, higher burnup and improved wasteform characteristics. Recent studies have been directed toward homogeneously mixed, heterogeneously mixed, and seed-and-blanket thorium-uranium fuel cycles that rely on "in situ" use of the bred-in U-233. However, due to the higher initial enrichment required to achieve acceptable burnups, these fuels are encountering economic constraints. Thorium can nevertheless play a large role in the nuclear fuel cycle; particularly in the reduction of plutonium. While uranium-based mixedoxide (MOX) fuel will decrease the amount of plutonium, the reduction is limited due to the breeding of more plutonium (and higher actinides) from the U-238. Here we present calculational results and a comparison of the potential burnup of a thorium-based and uranium-based mixed oxide fuel in a light water reactor (LWR). Although the uranium-based fuels outperformed the thorium-based fuels in achievable burnup, a depletion comparison of the initially charged plutonium (both reactor and weapons grade) showed that the thorium-based fuels outperformed the uranium-based fuels by more that a factor of 2; where more than 70% of the total plutonium in the thorium-based fuel is consumed during the cycle. This is significant considering that the achievable burnup of the thorium-based fuels were 1.4 to 4.6 times less than the uranium-based fuels. Furthermore, use of a thorium-based fuel could also be used as a strategy for reducing the amount of long-lived nuclides (including the minor actinides), and thus the radiotoxicity in spent nuclear fuel. Although the breeding of U-233 is a concern, the presence of U-232 and its daughter products can aid in making this fuel self-protecting, and/or enough U-238 can be added to denature the fissile uranium. From these calculations, it appears that thorium-based fuel for plutonium incineration is superior as compared to uranium-based fuel, and should be considered as an alternative to traditional MOX in both current and future reactor designs.

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  • International Congress on Advanced Nuclear Power Plants (ICAPP), 2002 ANS Annual Meeting,Hollywood, FL,06/09/2002,06/13/2002

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  • Report No.: INEEL/CON-01-01427
  • Grant Number: DE-AC07-99ID-13727
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 910840
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc879261

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  • June 1, 2002

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  • Sept. 22, 2016, 2:13 a.m.

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  • Nov. 30, 2016, 4:20 p.m.

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Weaver, Kevan Dean & Herring, James Stephen. Performance of Thorium-Based Mixed Oxide Fuels for the Consumption of Plutonium and Minor Actinides in Current and Advanced Reactors, article, June 1, 2002; [Idaho Falls, Idaho]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc879261/: accessed September 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.