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Title: Neutronics Evaluation of Lithium-Based Ternary Alloys in IFE Blankets

Lithium is often the preferred choice as breeder and coolant in fusion blankets as it offers excellent heat transfer and corrosion properties, and most importantly, it has a very high tritium solubility and results in very low levels of tritium permeation throughout the facility infrastructure. However, lithium metal vigorously reacts with air and water and exacerbates plant safety concerns. For this reason, over the years numerous blanket concepts have been proposed with the scope of reducing concerns associated with lithium. The European helium cooled pebble bed breeding blanket (HCPB) physically confines lithium within ceramic pebbles. The pebbles reside within a low activation martensitic ferritic steel structure and are cooled by helium. The blanket is composed of the tritium breeding lithium ceramic pebbles and neutron multiplying beryllium pebbles. Other blanket designs utilize lead to lower chemical reactivity; LiPb alone can serve as a breeder, coolant, neutron multiplier, and tritium carrier. Blankets employing LiPb coolants alongside silicon carbide structural components can achieve high plant efficiency, low afterheat, and low operation pressures. This alloy can also be used alongside of helium such as in the dual-coolant lead-lithium concept (DCLL); helium is utilized to cool the first wall and structural components made up ofmore » low-activation ferritic steel, whereas lithium-lead (LiPb) acts as a self-cooled breeder in the inner channels of the blanket. The helium-cooled steel and lead-lithium alloy are separated by flow channel inserts (usually made out of silicon carbide) which thermally insulate the self-cooled breeder region from the helium cooled steel walls. This creates a LiPb breeder with a much higher exit temperature than the steel which increases the power cycle efficiency and also lowers the magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) pressure drop [6]. Molten salt blankets with a mixture of lithium, beryllium, and fluorides (FLiBe) offer good tritium breeding, low electrical conductivity and therefore low MHD pressure drop, low chemical reactivity, and extremely low tritium inventory; the addition of sodium (FLiNaBe) has been considered because it retains the properties of FliBe but also lowers the melting point. Although many of these blanket concepts are promising, challenges still remain. The limited amount of beryllium available poses a problem for ceramic breeders such as the HCPB. FLiBe and FLiNaBe are highly viscous and have a low thermal conductivity. Lithium lead possesses a poor thermal conductivity which can cause problems in both DCLL and LiPb blankets. Additionally, the tritium permeation from these two blankets into plant components can be a problem and must be reduced. Consequently, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) is attempting to develop a lithium-based alloy—most likely a ternary alloy—which maintains the beneficial properties of lithium (e.g. high tritium breeding and solubility) while reducing overall flammability concerns for use in the blanket of an inertial fusion energy (IFE) power plant. The LLNL concept employs inertial confinement fusion (ICF) through the use of lasers aimed at an indirect-driven target composed of deuterium-tritium fuel. The fusion driver/target design implements the same physics currently experimented at the National Ignition Facility (NIF). The plant uses lithium in both the primary coolant and blanket; therefore, lithium-related hazards are of primary concern. Although reducing chemical reactivity is the primary motivation for the development of new lithium alloys, the successful candidates will have to guarantee acceptable performance in all their functions. The scope of this study is to evaluate the neutronics performance of a large number of lithium-based alloys in the blanket of the IFE engine and assess their properties upon activation. This manuscript is organized as follows: Section 12 presents the models and methodologies used for the analysis; Section 3 discusses the results; Section 4 summarizes findings and future work.« less
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  1. Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA (United States)
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Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Lawrence Livermore National Lab. (LLNL), Livermore, CA (United States)
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Country of Publication:
United States