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Title: The Complete Burning of Weapons Grade Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium with (Laser Inertial Fusion-Fission Energy) LIFE Engine

Abstract

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) project, a laser-based Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) experiment designed to achieve thermonuclear fusion ignition and burn in the laboratory, is under construction at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and will be completed in April of 2009. Experiments designed to accomplish the NIF's goal will commence in late FY2010 utilizing laser energies of 1 to 1.3 MJ. Fusion yields of the order of 10 to 20 MJ are expected soon thereafter. Laser initiated fusion-fission (LIFE) engines have now been designed to produce nuclear power from natural or depleted uranium without isotopic enrichment, and from spent nuclear fuel from light water reactors without chemical separation into weapons-attractive actinide streams. A point-source of high-energy neutrons produced by laser-generated, thermonuclear fusion within a target is used to achieve ultra-deep burn-up of the fertile or fissile fuel in a sub-critical fission blanket. Fertile fuels including depleted uranium (DU), natural uranium (NatU), spent nuclear fuel (SNF), and thorium (Th) can be used. Fissile fuels such as low-enrichment uranium (LEU), excess weapons plutonium (WG-Pu), and excess highly-enriched uranium (HEU) may be used as well. Based upon preliminary analyses, it is believed that LIFE could help meet worldwide electricity needs in amore » safe and sustainable manner, while drastically shrinking the nation's and world's stockpile of spent nuclear fuel and excess weapons materials. LIFE takes advantage of the significant advances in laser-based inertial confinement fusion that are taking place at the NIF at LLNL where it is expected that thermonuclear ignition will be achieved in the 2010-2011 timeframe. Starting from as little as 300 to 500 MW of fusion power, a single LIFE engine will be able to generate 2000 to 3000 MWt in steady state for periods of years to decades, depending on the nuclear fuel and engine configuration. Because the fission blanket in a fusion-fission hybrid system is subcritical, a LIFE engine can burn any fertile or fissile nuclear material, including unenriched natural or depleted U and SNF, and can extract a very high percentage of the energy content of its fuel resulting in greatly enhanced energy generation per metric ton of nuclear fuel, as well as nuclear waste forms with vastly reduced concentrations of long-lived actinides. LIFE engines could thus provide the ability to generate vast amounts of electricity while greatly reducing the actinide content of any existing or future nuclear waste and extending the availability of low cost nuclear fuels for several thousand years. LIFE also provides an attractive pathway for burning excess weapons Pu to over 99% FIMA (fission of initial metal atoms) without the need for fabricating or reprocessing mixed oxide fuels (MOX). Because of all of these advantages, LIFE engines offer a pathway toward sustainable and safe nuclear power that significantly mitigates nuclear proliferation concerns and minimizes nuclear waste. An important aspect of a LIFE engine is the fact that there is no need to extract the fission fuel from the fission blanket before it is burned to the desired final level. Except for fuel inspection and maintenance process times, the nuclear fuel is always within the core of the reactor and no weapons-attractive materials are available outside at any point in time. However, an important consideration when discussing proliferation concerns associated with any nuclear fuel cycle is the ease with which reactor fuel can be converted to weapons usable materials, not just when it is extracted as waste, but at any point in the fuel cycle. Although the nuclear fuel remains in the core of the engine until ultra deep actinide burn up is achieved, soon after start up of the engine, once the system breeds up to full power, several tons of fissile material is present in the fission blanket. However, this fissile material is widely dispersed in millions of fuel pebbles, which can be tagged as individual accountable items, and thus made difficult to divert in large quantities. This report discusses the application of the LIFE concept to nonproliferation issues, initially looking at the LIFE (Laser Inertial Fusion-Fission Energy) engine as a means of completely burning WG Pu and HEU. By combining a neutron-rich inertial fusion point source with energy-rich fission, the once-through closed fuel-cycle LIFE concept has the following characteristics: it is capable of efficiently burning excess weapons or separated civilian plutonium and highly enriched uranium; the fission blanket is sub-critical at all times (keff < 0.95); because LIFE can operate well beyond the point at which light water reactors (LWRs) need to be refueled due to burn-up of fissile material and the resulting drop in system reactivity, fuel burn-up of 99% or more appears feasible. The objective of this work is to develop LIFE technology for burning of WG-Pu and HEU.« less

Authors:
;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Lawrence Livermore National Lab. (LLNL), Livermore, CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
947240
Report Number(s):
LLNL-TR-410152
TRN: US0901550
DOE Contract Number:  
W-7405-ENG-48
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
42 ENGINEERING; DEPLETED URANIUM; ENGINES; FISSILE MATERIALS; FISSION; FUEL CYCLE; FUSION YIELD; HIGHLY ENRICHED URANIUM; HYBRID SYSTEMS; IGNITION; INERTIAL CONFINEMENT; LASERS; MIXED OXIDE FUELS; NATURAL URANIUM; NUCLEAR FUELS; NUCLEAR POWER; PLUTONIUM; POINT SOURCES; RADIOACTIVE WASTES; THERMONUCLEAR IGNITION; URANIUM; WEAPONS

Citation Formats

Farmer, J C, Diaz de la Rubia, T, and Moses, E. The Complete Burning of Weapons Grade Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium with (Laser Inertial Fusion-Fission Energy) LIFE Engine. United States: N. p., 2008. Web. doi:10.2172/947240.
Farmer, J C, Diaz de la Rubia, T, & Moses, E. The Complete Burning of Weapons Grade Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium with (Laser Inertial Fusion-Fission Energy) LIFE Engine. United States. doi:10.2172/947240.
Farmer, J C, Diaz de la Rubia, T, and Moses, E. Tue . "The Complete Burning of Weapons Grade Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium with (Laser Inertial Fusion-Fission Energy) LIFE Engine". United States. doi:10.2172/947240. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/947240.
@article{osti_947240,
title = {The Complete Burning of Weapons Grade Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium with (Laser Inertial Fusion-Fission Energy) LIFE Engine},
author = {Farmer, J C and Diaz de la Rubia, T and Moses, E},
abstractNote = {The National Ignition Facility (NIF) project, a laser-based Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) experiment designed to achieve thermonuclear fusion ignition and burn in the laboratory, is under construction at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and will be completed in April of 2009. Experiments designed to accomplish the NIF's goal will commence in late FY2010 utilizing laser energies of 1 to 1.3 MJ. Fusion yields of the order of 10 to 20 MJ are expected soon thereafter. Laser initiated fusion-fission (LIFE) engines have now been designed to produce nuclear power from natural or depleted uranium without isotopic enrichment, and from spent nuclear fuel from light water reactors without chemical separation into weapons-attractive actinide streams. A point-source of high-energy neutrons produced by laser-generated, thermonuclear fusion within a target is used to achieve ultra-deep burn-up of the fertile or fissile fuel in a sub-critical fission blanket. Fertile fuels including depleted uranium (DU), natural uranium (NatU), spent nuclear fuel (SNF), and thorium (Th) can be used. Fissile fuels such as low-enrichment uranium (LEU), excess weapons plutonium (WG-Pu), and excess highly-enriched uranium (HEU) may be used as well. Based upon preliminary analyses, it is believed that LIFE could help meet worldwide electricity needs in a safe and sustainable manner, while drastically shrinking the nation's and world's stockpile of spent nuclear fuel and excess weapons materials. LIFE takes advantage of the significant advances in laser-based inertial confinement fusion that are taking place at the NIF at LLNL where it is expected that thermonuclear ignition will be achieved in the 2010-2011 timeframe. Starting from as little as 300 to 500 MW of fusion power, a single LIFE engine will be able to generate 2000 to 3000 MWt in steady state for periods of years to decades, depending on the nuclear fuel and engine configuration. Because the fission blanket in a fusion-fission hybrid system is subcritical, a LIFE engine can burn any fertile or fissile nuclear material, including unenriched natural or depleted U and SNF, and can extract a very high percentage of the energy content of its fuel resulting in greatly enhanced energy generation per metric ton of nuclear fuel, as well as nuclear waste forms with vastly reduced concentrations of long-lived actinides. LIFE engines could thus provide the ability to generate vast amounts of electricity while greatly reducing the actinide content of any existing or future nuclear waste and extending the availability of low cost nuclear fuels for several thousand years. LIFE also provides an attractive pathway for burning excess weapons Pu to over 99% FIMA (fission of initial metal atoms) without the need for fabricating or reprocessing mixed oxide fuels (MOX). Because of all of these advantages, LIFE engines offer a pathway toward sustainable and safe nuclear power that significantly mitigates nuclear proliferation concerns and minimizes nuclear waste. An important aspect of a LIFE engine is the fact that there is no need to extract the fission fuel from the fission blanket before it is burned to the desired final level. Except for fuel inspection and maintenance process times, the nuclear fuel is always within the core of the reactor and no weapons-attractive materials are available outside at any point in time. However, an important consideration when discussing proliferation concerns associated with any nuclear fuel cycle is the ease with which reactor fuel can be converted to weapons usable materials, not just when it is extracted as waste, but at any point in the fuel cycle. Although the nuclear fuel remains in the core of the engine until ultra deep actinide burn up is achieved, soon after start up of the engine, once the system breeds up to full power, several tons of fissile material is present in the fission blanket. However, this fissile material is widely dispersed in millions of fuel pebbles, which can be tagged as individual accountable items, and thus made difficult to divert in large quantities. This report discusses the application of the LIFE concept to nonproliferation issues, initially looking at the LIFE (Laser Inertial Fusion-Fission Energy) engine as a means of completely burning WG Pu and HEU. By combining a neutron-rich inertial fusion point source with energy-rich fission, the once-through closed fuel-cycle LIFE concept has the following characteristics: it is capable of efficiently burning excess weapons or separated civilian plutonium and highly enriched uranium; the fission blanket is sub-critical at all times (keff < 0.95); because LIFE can operate well beyond the point at which light water reactors (LWRs) need to be refueled due to burn-up of fissile material and the resulting drop in system reactivity, fuel burn-up of 99% or more appears feasible. The objective of this work is to develop LIFE technology for burning of WG-Pu and HEU.},
doi = {10.2172/947240},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {2008},
month = {12}
}

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