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Near-complete transuranic waste incineration in a thorium fuelled pressurised water reactor

Lindley, BA and Parks, GT (2012) Near-complete transuranic waste incineration in a thorium fuelled pressurised water reactor. Annals of Nuclear Energy, 40. pp. 106-115. ISSN 0306-4549

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Abstract

The production of long-lived transuranic (TRU) waste is a major disadvantage of fission-based nuclear power. Incineration, and virtual elimination, of waste stockpiles is possible in a thorium (Th) fuelled critical or subcritical fast reactor. Fuel cycles producing a net decrease in TRUs are possible in conventional pressurised water reactors (PWRs). However, minor actinides (MAs) have a detrimental effect on reactivity and stability, ultimately limiting the quality and quantity of waste that can be incinerated. In this paper, we propose using a thorium-retained-actinides fuel cycle in PWRs, where the reactor is fuelled with a mixture of thorium and TRU waste, and after discharge all actinides are reprocessed and returned to the reactor. To investigate the feasibility and performance of this fuel cycle an assembly-level analysis for a one-batch reloading strategy was completed over 125 years of operation using WIMS 9. This one-batch analysis was performed for simplicity, but allowed an indicative assessment of the performance of a four-batch fuel management strategy. The build-up of 233U in the reactor allowed continued reactive and stable operation, until all significant actinide populations had reached pseudo-equilibrium in the reactor. It was therefore possible to achieve near-complete transuranic waste incineration, even for fuels with significant MA content. The average incineration rate was initially around 330 kg per GW th year and tended towards 250 kg per GW th year over several decades: a performance comparable to that achieved in a fast reactor. Using multiple batch fuel management, competitive or improved end-of-cycle burn-up appears achievable. The void coefficient (VC), moderator temperature coefficient (MTC) and Doppler coefficient remained negative. The quantity of soluble boron required for a fixed fuel cycle length was comparable to that for enriched uranium fuel, and acceptable amounts can be added without causing a positive VC or MTC. This analysis is limited by the consideration of a single fuel assembly, and it will be necessary to perform a full core coupled neutronic-thermal-hydraulic analysis to determine if the design in its current form is feasible. In particular, the potential for positive VCs if the core is highly or locally voided is a cause for concern. However, these results provide a compelling case for further work on concept feasibility and fuel management, which is in progress. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Incineration Plutonium PWR Thorium Transuranic Waste
Subjects: UNSPECIFIED
Divisions: Div A > Energy
Depositing User: Cron Job
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2014 11:30
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2014 19:03
DOI: 10.1016/j.anucene.2011.11.002