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Title: Studies of Plutonium-238 Production at the High Flux Isotope Reactor

Abstract

The High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is a versatile 85 MW{sub th}, pressurized, light water-cooled and -moderated research reactor. The core consists of two fuel elements, an inner fuel element (IFE) and an outer fuel element (OFE), each constructed of involute fuel plates containing high-enriched-uranium (HEU) fuel ({approx}93 wt% {sup 235}U/U) in the form of U{sub 3}O{sub 8} in an Al matrix and encapsulated in Al-6061 clad. An over-moderated flux trap is located in the center of the core, a large beryllium reflector is located on the outside of the core, and two control elements (CE) are located between the fuel and the reflector. The flux trap and reflector house numerous experimental facilities which are used for isotope production, material irradiation, and cold/thermal neutron scattering. Over the past five decades, the US Department of Energy (DOE) and its agencies have been producing radioisotope power systems used by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for unmanned, long-term space exploration missions. Plutonium-238 is used to power Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTG) because it has a very long half-life (t{sub 1/2} {approx} 89 yr.) and it generates about 0.5 watts/gram when it decays via alpha emission. Duemore » to the recent shortage and uncertainty of future production, the DOE has proposed a plan to the US Congress to produce {sup 238}Pu by irradiating {sup 237}Np as early as in fiscal year 2011. An annual production rate of 1.5 to 2.0 kg of {sup 238}Pu is expected to satisfy these needs and could be produced in existing national nuclear facilities like HFIR and the Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). Reactors at the Savannah River Site were used in the past for {sup 238}Pu production but were shut down after the last production in 1988. The nation's {sup 237}Np inventory is currently stored at INL. A plan for producing {sup 238}Pu at US research reactor facilities such as the High Flux Isotope Reactor at ORNL has been initiated by the US DOE and NASA for space exploration needs. Two Monte Carlo-based depletion codes, TRITON (ORNL) and VESTA (IRSN), were used to study the {sup 238}Pu production rates with varying target configurations in a typical HFIR fuel cycle. Preliminary studies have shown that approximately 11 grams and within 15 to 17 grams of {sup 238}Pu could be produced in the first irradiation cycle in one small and one large VXF facility, respectively, when irradiating fresh target arrays as those herein described. Important to note is that in this study we discovered that small differences in assumptions could affect the production rates of Pu-238 observed. The exact flux at a specific target location can have a significant impact upon production, so any differences in how the control elements are modeled as a function of exposure, will also cause differences in production rates. In fact, the surface plot of the large VXF target Pu-238 production shown in Figure 3 illustrates that the pins closest to the core can potentially have production rates as high as 3 times those of pins away from the core, thus implying that a cycle-to-cycle rotation of the targets may be well advised. A methodology for generating spatially-dependent, multi-group self-shielded cross sections and flux files with the KENO and CENTRM codes has been created so that standalone ORIGEN-S inputs can be quickly constructed to perform a variety of {sup 238}Pu production scenarios, i.e. combinations of the number of arrays loaded and the number of irradiation cycles. The studies herein shown with VESTA and TRITON/KENO will be used to benchmark the standalone ORIGEN.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [2];  [3];  [1]
  1. University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK)
  2. University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) & Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
  3. ORNL
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States); High Flux Isotope Reactor
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
1029578
DOE Contract Number:  
DE-AC05-00OR22725
Resource Type:
Conference
Resource Relation:
Conference: 2011 American Nuclear Society Annual Meeting, Hollywood, FL, USA, 20110626, 20110630
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
11 NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE AND FUEL MATERIALS; 21 SPECIFIC NUCLEAR REACTORS AND ASSOCIATED PLANTS; 24 POWER TRANSMISSION AND DISTRIBUTION; 30 DIRECT ENERGY CONVERSION; BERYLLIUM; CONTROL ELEMENTS; CROSS SECTIONS; EXPLORATION; FUEL CYCLE; FUEL ELEMENTS; FUEL PLATES; HALF-LIFE; HFIR REACTOR; IRRADIATION; ISOTOPE PRODUCTION; NEUTRONS; NUCLEAR FACILITIES; PLUTONIUM 238; POWER SYSTEMS; RADIOISOTOPES; RESEARCH REACTORS; SCATTERING; TEST REACTORS; THERMOELECTRIC GENERATORS; NESDPS Office of Nuclear Energy Space and Defense Power Systems

Citation Formats

Lastres, Oscar, Chandler, David, Jarrell, Joshua J, and Maldonado, G. Ivan. Studies of Plutonium-238 Production at the High Flux Isotope Reactor. United States: N. p., 2011. Web.
Lastres, Oscar, Chandler, David, Jarrell, Joshua J, & Maldonado, G. Ivan. Studies of Plutonium-238 Production at the High Flux Isotope Reactor. United States.
Lastres, Oscar, Chandler, David, Jarrell, Joshua J, and Maldonado, G. Ivan. Sat . "Studies of Plutonium-238 Production at the High Flux Isotope Reactor". United States.
@article{osti_1029578,
title = {Studies of Plutonium-238 Production at the High Flux Isotope Reactor},
author = {Lastres, Oscar and Chandler, David and Jarrell, Joshua J and Maldonado, G. Ivan},
abstractNote = {The High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is a versatile 85 MW{sub th}, pressurized, light water-cooled and -moderated research reactor. The core consists of two fuel elements, an inner fuel element (IFE) and an outer fuel element (OFE), each constructed of involute fuel plates containing high-enriched-uranium (HEU) fuel ({approx}93 wt% {sup 235}U/U) in the form of U{sub 3}O{sub 8} in an Al matrix and encapsulated in Al-6061 clad. An over-moderated flux trap is located in the center of the core, a large beryllium reflector is located on the outside of the core, and two control elements (CE) are located between the fuel and the reflector. The flux trap and reflector house numerous experimental facilities which are used for isotope production, material irradiation, and cold/thermal neutron scattering. Over the past five decades, the US Department of Energy (DOE) and its agencies have been producing radioisotope power systems used by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for unmanned, long-term space exploration missions. Plutonium-238 is used to power Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTG) because it has a very long half-life (t{sub 1/2} {approx} 89 yr.) and it generates about 0.5 watts/gram when it decays via alpha emission. Due to the recent shortage and uncertainty of future production, the DOE has proposed a plan to the US Congress to produce {sup 238}Pu by irradiating {sup 237}Np as early as in fiscal year 2011. An annual production rate of 1.5 to 2.0 kg of {sup 238}Pu is expected to satisfy these needs and could be produced in existing national nuclear facilities like HFIR and the Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). Reactors at the Savannah River Site were used in the past for {sup 238}Pu production but were shut down after the last production in 1988. The nation's {sup 237}Np inventory is currently stored at INL. A plan for producing {sup 238}Pu at US research reactor facilities such as the High Flux Isotope Reactor at ORNL has been initiated by the US DOE and NASA for space exploration needs. Two Monte Carlo-based depletion codes, TRITON (ORNL) and VESTA (IRSN), were used to study the {sup 238}Pu production rates with varying target configurations in a typical HFIR fuel cycle. Preliminary studies have shown that approximately 11 grams and within 15 to 17 grams of {sup 238}Pu could be produced in the first irradiation cycle in one small and one large VXF facility, respectively, when irradiating fresh target arrays as those herein described. Important to note is that in this study we discovered that small differences in assumptions could affect the production rates of Pu-238 observed. The exact flux at a specific target location can have a significant impact upon production, so any differences in how the control elements are modeled as a function of exposure, will also cause differences in production rates. In fact, the surface plot of the large VXF target Pu-238 production shown in Figure 3 illustrates that the pins closest to the core can potentially have production rates as high as 3 times those of pins away from the core, thus implying that a cycle-to-cycle rotation of the targets may be well advised. A methodology for generating spatially-dependent, multi-group self-shielded cross sections and flux files with the KENO and CENTRM codes has been created so that standalone ORIGEN-S inputs can be quickly constructed to perform a variety of {sup 238}Pu production scenarios, i.e. combinations of the number of arrays loaded and the number of irradiation cycles. The studies herein shown with VESTA and TRITON/KENO will be used to benchmark the standalone ORIGEN.},
doi = {},
url = {https://www.osti.gov/biblio/1029578}, journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {2011},
month = {1}
}

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