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Title: Radiotoxicity Characterization of Multi-Recycled Thorium Fuel - 12394

Abstract

As described in companion papers, Westinghouse is proposing the implementation of a thorium based fuel cycle to burn the transuranic (TRU) contained in the used nuclear fuel. The potential of thorium as a TRU burner is described in another paper presented at this conference. This paper analyzes the long-term impact of thorium on the front-end and backend of the fuel cycle. This is accomplished by an assessment of the isotopic make-up of Th in a closed cycle and its impact on representative metrics, such as radiotoxicity, decay heat and gamma heat. The behavior in both thermal and fast neutron energy ranges has been investigated. Irradiation in a Th fuel PWR has been assumed as representative of the thermal range, while a Th fuel fast reactor (FR) has been employed to characterize the behavior in the high-energy range. A comparison with a U-fuel closed-cycle FR has been undertaken in an attempt of a more comprehensive evaluation of each cycle's long-term potential. As the Th fuel undergoes multiple cycles of irradiation, the isotopic composition of the recycled fuel changes. Minor Th isotopes are produced; U-232 and Pa-231 build up; the U vector gradually shifts towards increasing amounts of U-234, U-235 etc., eventuallymore » leading to the production of non negligible amounts of TRU isotopes, especially Pu-238. The impact of the recycled fuel isotopic makeup on the in-core behavior is mild, and for some aspects beneficial, i.e. the reactivity swing during irradiation is reduced as the fertile characteristics of the fuel increase. On the other hand, the front and the back-end of the fuel cycle are negatively affected due to the presence of Th-228 and U-232 and the build-up of higher actinides (Pu-238 etc.). The presence of U-232 can also be seen as advantageous as it represents an obstacle to potential proliferators. Notwithstanding the increase in the short-term radiotoxicity and decay heat in the multi-recycled fuel, the Th closed cycle has some potentially substantial advantages compared to the U cycle, such as the smaller actinide radiotoxicity and decay heat for up to 25,000 years after irradiation. In order for these benefits to materialize, the capability to reprocess and remotely manufacture industrial amounts of recycled fuel appears to be the key. Westinghouse is proposing the implementation of a thorium based fuel cycle to burn the TRU contained in the current UNF. The general approach and the potential of thorium as TRU burner is described in other papers presented at this conference. The focus of this paper is to analyze the long-term potential of thorium, once the legacy TRU has been exhausted and the thorium reactor system will become self-sufficient. Therefore, a comparison of Th closed cycle, in fast and thermal neutron energy ranges, vs. U closed cycle, in the fast energy range, has been undertaken. The results presented focus on selected backend and front-end metrics: isotopic actinide composition and potential implications on ingested radiotoxicity, decay heat and gamma heat. The evaluation confirms potential substantial improvements in the backend of the fuel cycle by transitioning to a thorium closed cycle. These benefits are the result of a much lower TRU content, in particular Pu-241, Am-241 and Pu-240, characterizing the Th vs. U actinide inventories, and the ensuing process waste to be disposed. On the other hand, the larger gamma activity of Th recycled fuel, consisting predominantly of hard gammas from U-232's decay products, is a significant challenge for fuel handling, transportation and manufacturing but can be claimed as beneficial for the proliferation resistance of the fuel. It is worth remembering that in our perspective the Th closed cycle and the U closed cycle will follow a transmutation phase which will likely take place over several decades and dictate the technologies required. These will likely include remote fuel manufacturing, regardless of the specific system adopted for the transmutation, which could then be inherited for the ensuing closed cycles. Finally, specific data related to the fuel manufacturing and separation technologies and their performance in the prospected industrial scale deployment, are key for further quantification of the potential merits of the options explored. Further studies in this direction should be warranted before making definitive conclusion. (authors)« less

Authors:
;  [1];  [2];  [3]; ;  [4];  [5]
  1. Westinghouse Electric Company, Cranberry Township, PA (United States)
  2. Polytechnic of Milano, Milan (Italy)
  3. (Switzerland)
  4. Georgia Technology University, Atlanta, GA (United States)
  5. Paul Sherrer Institute (Switzerland)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
WM Symposia, 1628 E. Southern Avenue, Suite 9-332, Tempe, AZ 85282 (United States)
OSTI Identifier:
22293638
Report Number(s):
INIS-US-14-WM-12394
TRN: US14V1294115162
Resource Type:
Conference
Resource Relation:
Conference: WM2012: Waste Management 2012 conference on improving the future in waste management, Phoenix, AZ (United States), 26 Feb - 1 Mar 2012; Other Information: Country of input: France; 8 refs.
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
11 NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE AND FUEL MATERIALS; 21 SPECIFIC NUCLEAR REACTORS AND ASSOCIATED PLANTS; 12 MANAGEMENT OF RADIOACTIVE WASTES, AND NON-RADIOACTIVE WASTES FROM NUCLEAR FACILITIES; AMERICIUM 241; COMPARATIVE EVALUATIONS; FAST NEUTRONS; FAST REACTORS; IRRADIATION; NUCLEAR FUELS; PLUTONIUM 238; PLUTONIUM 240; PLUTONIUM 241; PROTACTINIUM 231; PWR TYPE REACTORS; SEPARATION PROCESSES; THERMAL NEUTRONS; THORIUM; THORIUM 228; THORIUM REACTORS; URANIUM 232; URANIUM 234; URANIUM 235; WASTES

Citation Formats

Franceschini, F., Wenner, M., Fiorina, C., Paul Sherrer Institute, Huang, M., Petrovic, B., and Krepel, J. Radiotoxicity Characterization of Multi-Recycled Thorium Fuel - 12394. United States: N. p., 2012. Web.
Franceschini, F., Wenner, M., Fiorina, C., Paul Sherrer Institute, Huang, M., Petrovic, B., & Krepel, J. Radiotoxicity Characterization of Multi-Recycled Thorium Fuel - 12394. United States.
Franceschini, F., Wenner, M., Fiorina, C., Paul Sherrer Institute, Huang, M., Petrovic, B., and Krepel, J. Sun . "Radiotoxicity Characterization of Multi-Recycled Thorium Fuel - 12394". United States.
@article{osti_22293638,
title = {Radiotoxicity Characterization of Multi-Recycled Thorium Fuel - 12394},
author = {Franceschini, F. and Wenner, M. and Fiorina, C. and Paul Sherrer Institute and Huang, M. and Petrovic, B. and Krepel, J.},
abstractNote = {As described in companion papers, Westinghouse is proposing the implementation of a thorium based fuel cycle to burn the transuranic (TRU) contained in the used nuclear fuel. The potential of thorium as a TRU burner is described in another paper presented at this conference. This paper analyzes the long-term impact of thorium on the front-end and backend of the fuel cycle. This is accomplished by an assessment of the isotopic make-up of Th in a closed cycle and its impact on representative metrics, such as radiotoxicity, decay heat and gamma heat. The behavior in both thermal and fast neutron energy ranges has been investigated. Irradiation in a Th fuel PWR has been assumed as representative of the thermal range, while a Th fuel fast reactor (FR) has been employed to characterize the behavior in the high-energy range. A comparison with a U-fuel closed-cycle FR has been undertaken in an attempt of a more comprehensive evaluation of each cycle's long-term potential. As the Th fuel undergoes multiple cycles of irradiation, the isotopic composition of the recycled fuel changes. Minor Th isotopes are produced; U-232 and Pa-231 build up; the U vector gradually shifts towards increasing amounts of U-234, U-235 etc., eventually leading to the production of non negligible amounts of TRU isotopes, especially Pu-238. The impact of the recycled fuel isotopic makeup on the in-core behavior is mild, and for some aspects beneficial, i.e. the reactivity swing during irradiation is reduced as the fertile characteristics of the fuel increase. On the other hand, the front and the back-end of the fuel cycle are negatively affected due to the presence of Th-228 and U-232 and the build-up of higher actinides (Pu-238 etc.). The presence of U-232 can also be seen as advantageous as it represents an obstacle to potential proliferators. Notwithstanding the increase in the short-term radiotoxicity and decay heat in the multi-recycled fuel, the Th closed cycle has some potentially substantial advantages compared to the U cycle, such as the smaller actinide radiotoxicity and decay heat for up to 25,000 years after irradiation. In order for these benefits to materialize, the capability to reprocess and remotely manufacture industrial amounts of recycled fuel appears to be the key. Westinghouse is proposing the implementation of a thorium based fuel cycle to burn the TRU contained in the current UNF. The general approach and the potential of thorium as TRU burner is described in other papers presented at this conference. The focus of this paper is to analyze the long-term potential of thorium, once the legacy TRU has been exhausted and the thorium reactor system will become self-sufficient. Therefore, a comparison of Th closed cycle, in fast and thermal neutron energy ranges, vs. U closed cycle, in the fast energy range, has been undertaken. The results presented focus on selected backend and front-end metrics: isotopic actinide composition and potential implications on ingested radiotoxicity, decay heat and gamma heat. The evaluation confirms potential substantial improvements in the backend of the fuel cycle by transitioning to a thorium closed cycle. These benefits are the result of a much lower TRU content, in particular Pu-241, Am-241 and Pu-240, characterizing the Th vs. U actinide inventories, and the ensuing process waste to be disposed. On the other hand, the larger gamma activity of Th recycled fuel, consisting predominantly of hard gammas from U-232's decay products, is a significant challenge for fuel handling, transportation and manufacturing but can be claimed as beneficial for the proliferation resistance of the fuel. It is worth remembering that in our perspective the Th closed cycle and the U closed cycle will follow a transmutation phase which will likely take place over several decades and dictate the technologies required. These will likely include remote fuel manufacturing, regardless of the specific system adopted for the transmutation, which could then be inherited for the ensuing closed cycles. Finally, specific data related to the fuel manufacturing and separation technologies and their performance in the prospected industrial scale deployment, are key for further quantification of the potential merits of the options explored. Further studies in this direction should be warranted before making definitive conclusion. (authors)},
doi = {},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {2012},
month = {7}
}

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