A Phased Development of Breed-and-Burn Reactors for Enhanced Nuclear Energy Sustainability
Several options for designing fast reactors to operate in the Breed-and-Burn (B&B) mode are compared and a strategy is outlined for early introduction of B&B reactors followed by a gradual increase in the fuel utilization of such reactors. In the first phase the fast reactor core will consist of a subcritical B&B blanket driven by a relatively small critical seed. As the required discharge burnup/radiation-damage to both driver and blanket fuel had already been proven, and as the depleted uranium fueled B&B blanket could generate close to 2/3 of the core power and will have very low fuel cycle cost, the deployment of such fast reactors could start in the near future. The second phase consists of deploying self-sustaining stationary wave B&B reactors. It will require development of fuel technology that could withstand peak burnups of ~30% and peak radiation damage to the cladding of ~550 dpa. The third phase requires development of a fuel reconditioning technology that will enable using the fuel up to an average burnup of ~50%—the upper bound permitted by neutron balance considerations when most of the fission products are not separated from the fuel. The increase in the uranium ore utilization relative to that provided by contemporary power reactors is estimated to be 20, 40 and 100 folds for, respectively, phase 1, 2 and 3. The energy value of the depleted uranium stockpiles (“waste”) accumulated in the US is equivalent to, when used in the B&B reactors, up to 20 centuries of the total 2010 USA supply of electricity. Therefore, a successful development of B&B reactors could provide a great measure of energy sustainability and cost stability.
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