Comparison of thorium-based fuels with different fissile components in existing boiling water reactors
Paper in proceeding, 2009
With the aim of investigating the technical feasibility of fuelling a conventional BWR (Boiling Water Reactor) with thorium based fuel, four different fissile components were each homogenously combined with thorium to form a mixed oxide pellet: Uranium enriched to 20% U-235 (LEU), plutonium recovered from spent LWR fuel (RGPu), pure U-233 and a mixture of RGPu and uranium recovered from spent thorium-based fuel. Based on these fuel types, BWR nuclear bundle designs were formed, using a conventional mechanical assembly (GE14-N) as the pellet carrier. The fissile content was chosen to give a total energy release equivalent to that of a UOX fuel bundle reaching a discharge burnup of about 55 MWd/kgHM. The radial distribution of fissile material was optimized to achieve low internal power peaking. Reactor physical parameters were computed in a 2D lattice model using CASMO-5, and results were compared to those of reference LEU and MOX bundle designs. It was concluded that a well-optimized thorium-based BWR nuclear bundle design, based on any of the fissile components, can be achieved. Neutronic parameters that are essential for reactor safety, like reactivity coefficients and control rod worths, are in most cases similar to those of LEU and MOX fuel. This is also true for the decay heat produced in irradiated fuel. However when Th is mixed with U-233, the void coefficient (calculated in 2D) can be positive under some conditions. It was concluded that it is very difficult to make savings of natural uranium by mixing LEU (20% U-235) homogenously with thorium and that mixing RGPu with thorium leads to more efficient consumption of Pu compared to MOX fuel.