Improvement of LWR thermal margins by introducing thorium
Journal article, 2012
The use of thorium in pressurized water reactor fuel assemblies is investigated in this paper. The novelty of the reported work is to study a fuel design primarily intended to control the excess of reactivity at beginning of life, and flatten the intra-assembly power distribution rather than converting fertile Th-232 into fissile U-233. The fuel assembly is a traditional 17 x 17 pressurized water reactor fuel design. The majority of the fuel pins contain a mixture of uranium and thorium oxides, while a few fuel pins contain a mixture between uranium and gadolinium oxides. The calculation were performed by two-dimensional transport calculations with the Studsvik Scandpower CASMO-4E code in order to determine the main neutronic properties of the new fuel design, compared with the traditional uranium-based fuel assembly containing gadolinium used as reference. The majority of the neutronic properties of the uranium-thorium-based fuel assembly were similar to the reference fuel assembly. The Doppler and the moderator temperature coefficients of reactivity were found to be appreciably more negative in the uranium-thorium-based design, but still within acceptable limits. One advantage of this new uranium-thorium-based design is a reduction of the pin peak power at beginning of life, because of smaller amount of gadolinium being used. This is important from an operational and safety viewpoint, since the margin to departure from nucleate boiling becomes larger. Consequently, this new type of thorium-based fuel assembly shows advantageous properties for use in power-uprated cores.