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A Phased Development of Breed-and-Burn Reactors for Enhanced Nuclear Energy Sustainability

Author

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  • Ehud Greenspan

    () (University of California Nuclear Engineering Department, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Ehud Greenspan, 2012. "A Phased Development of Breed-and-Burn Reactors for Enhanced Nuclear Energy Sustainability," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(10), pages 1-20, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:4:y:2012:i:10:p:2745-2764:d:20823
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Guerra, Erick & Cervero, Robert, 2012. "Transit and the "D" Word," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt83f6q2nv, University of California Transportation Center.
    2. Yuan, Xueliang & Zuo, Jian & Ma, Chunyuan, 2011. "Social acceptance of solar energy technologies in China--End users' perspective," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 1031-1036, March.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    fast reactors; breed-and-burn; stationary wave; travelling wave; seed-and-blanket; sustainability; depleted uranium; thorium;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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