Self-Sustaining Thorium Boiling Water Reactors
A thorium-fueled water-cooled reactor core design approach that features a radially uniform composition of fuel rods in stationary fuel assembly and is fuel-self-sustaining is described. This core design concept is similar to the Reduced moderation Boiling Water Reactor (RBWR) proposed by Hitachi to fit within an ABWR pressure vessel, with the following exceptions: use of thorium instead of depleted uranium for the fertile fuel; elimination of the internal blanket; and elimination of absorbers from the axial reflectors, while increasing the length of the fissile zone. The preliminary analysis indicates that it is feasible to design such cores to be fuel-self-sustaining and to have a comfortably low peak linear heat generation rate when operating at the nominal ABWR power level of nearly 4000 MW th . However, the void reactivity feedback tends to be too negative, making it difficult to have sufficient shutdown reactivity margin at cold zero power condition. An addition of a small amount of plutonium from LWR used nuclear fuel was found effective in reducing the magnitude of the negative void reactivity effect and enables attaining adequate shutdown reactivity margin; it also flattens the axial power distribution. The resulting design concept offers an efficient incineration of the LWR generated plutonium in addition to effective utilization of thorium. Additional R&D is required in order to arrive at a reliable practical and safe design.
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