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Title: Letter Report: Looking Ahead at Nuclear Fuel Resources

The future of nuclear energy and its ability to fulfill part of the world’s energy needs for centuries to come depend on a reliable input of nuclear fuel, either thorium or uranium. Obviously, the present nuclear fuel cycle is completely dependent on uranium. Future thorium cycles will also depend on 235U or fissile isotopes separated from used fuel to breed 232Th into fissile 233U. This letter report discusses several emerging areas of scientific understanding and technology development that will clarify and enable assured supplies of uranium and thorium well into the future. At the most fundamental level, the nuclear energy community needs to appreciate the origins of uranium and thorium and the processes of planetary accretion by which those materials have coalesced to form the earth and other planets. Secondly, the studies of geophysics and geochemistry are increasing understanding of the processes by which uranium and thorium are concentrated in various locations in the earth’s crust. Thirdly, the study of neutrinos and particularly geoneutrinos (neutrinos emitted by radioactive materials within the earth) has given an indication of the overall global inventories of uranium and thorium, though little indication for those materials’ locations. Crustal temperature measurements have also given hints ofmore » the vertical distribution of radioactive heat sources, primarily 238U and 232Th, within the continental crust. Finally, the evolving technologies for laser isotope separation are indicating methods for reducing the energy input to uranium enrichment but also for tailoring the isotopic vectors of fuels, burnable poisons and structural materials, thereby adding another tool for dealing with long-term waste management.« less
Authors:
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
1111500
Report Number(s):
INL/EXT-13-30181
DOE Contract Number:
DE-AC07-05ID14517
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Idaho National Laboratory (INL)
Sponsoring Org:
DOE - NE
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
22 GENERAL STUDIES OF NUCLEAR REACTORS nuclear fuel resources