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Research Papers: Nuclear Power

A Once-Through Fuel Cycle for Fast Reactors

[+] Author and Article Information
Kevan D. Weaver

 TerraPower, LLC, 1756 114th Avenue SE, Suite 110, Bellevue, WA 98004kweaver@intven.com

John Gilleland, Charles Ahlfeld, Charles Whitmer, George Zimmerman

 TerraPower, LLC, 1756 114th Avenue SE, Suite 110, Bellevue, WA 98004

This calculation assumes 0.3% tails; 4.5% average enrichment; a three-batch, 18-month cycle; and normalization to 1 GWe.

The total fissile mass is defined as the combined masses of uranium-235+uranium-233+plutonium-239+plutonium-241.

J. Eng. Gas Turbines Power 132(10), 102917 (Jul 08, 2010) (6 pages) doi:10.1115/1.4000898 History: Received August 11, 2009; Revised September 24, 2009; Published July 08, 2010; Online July 08, 2010

A paradigm shift has altered the design targets for advanced nuclear energy systems that use a fast neutron spectrum. Whereas designers previously emphasized the ability of fast reactors to extend global reserves of fissile fuels, the overriding desire now is for reactor technologies that are “cleaner, more efficient, less waste-intensive, and more proliferation-resistant.” (Cheney, 2001, “U.S. National Energy Policy  ,” National Energy Policy Development Group, Washington, DC) This shift in priorities, along with recent design advances that enable high fuel burnup even when using fuels that have been minimally enriched, creates an opportunity to use fast reactors in an open nuclear fuel cycle. One promising route to this goal exploits a phenomenon known as a traveling wave, which can attain high burnups without reprocessing. A traveling-wave reactor (TWR) breeds and uses its own fuel in place as it operates. Recent design work has demonstrated that TWRs could be fueled almost entirely by depleted or natural uranium, thus reducing the need for initial enrichment. The calculations described here show that a gigawatt-scale electric TWR can achieve a burnup of 20%, which is four to five times that realized in current light water reactors. Burnups as high as 50% appear feasible. The factors that contribute to these high burnups and the implications for materials design are discussed.

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Copyright © 2010 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figures

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Figure 1

Graphical representations of a propagating wave (a) five years and (b) 30 years after initiation. A breeding wave (dark curve in chart) precedes the burning wave (light curve).

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Figure 2

Computational process using the MCNPX-CINDER90 code set

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Figure 3

Fuel pin and assembly

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Figure 4

Face map of a parallelepiped TWR core

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Figure 5

Relative comparison of TWR with LWR waste with respect to radiotoxicity, decay heat, and fissile mass at EOL for 21% burnup in the TWR; normalized per unit of electrical energy produced

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Figure 6

Relative comparison of TWR with LWR spent fuel with respect to radiotoxicity, decay heat, and fissile mass at EOL for 21% burnup in the TWR; normalized per unit of electrical energy produced

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Figure 7

Relative comparison of TWR (thorium fuel) with LWR spent fuel with respect to radiotoxicity, decay heat, and fissile mass at EOL for 21% burnup in the TWR; normalized per unit of electrical energy produced

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Figure 8

Relative comparison of TWR (thorium fuel) with LWR waste with respect to radiotoxicity, decay heat, and fissile mass at EOL for 49% burnup in the TWR; normalized per unit of electrical energy produced

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Figure 9

Comparison of absolute values of (a) water radiotoxicity, (b) air radiotoxicity, and (c) decay heat of TWR uranium and thorium fuel with LWR fuel; normalized per unit of electrical energy produced

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