Issues and Measures Against the Uranium-Free TRU Metallic Fast Reactor Core

This chapter presents issues and measures against the uranium-free TRU metallic fast reactor core. Also, the targets and constraints in parametric survey and selection of core and fuel specification are briefly described.

There are two main issues associated with the TRU burning fast reactor cycle using uranium-free metallic fuel in terms of practicability:

(1) Decrease in the absolute value of the negative Doppler reactivity coefficient resulting from absence of uranium-238, which has the ability to absorb neutrons at elevated temperatures. example,

metallic fuel with uranium: -1 x 10-3 Tdk/dT metallic fuel without uranium: -6 x 10-4 Tdk/dT

(2) Increase in burn-up reactivity swing as fissile decreases monotonically in uranium-free core. example,

metallic fuel with uranium: ~1 %dk/kk0/150 days metallic fuel without uranium: ~6 %dk/kk0/150 days

To solve these issues, there are several candidates, as follows:

(1) Enhance Doppler feedback

– Introduce diluent material in the metallic fuel

– Introduce spectrum moderator

(2) Reduce burn-up reactivity swing

– Reduce the core height

– Introduce neutron absorber outside the core

– Increase the number of refueling batches

Generally, if it is conventional fast reactors with U-Pu fuel, the burn-up reactivity swing depends mainly on decrease of fissile amount and increase of neutron parasitic capture of fission products and actinides from burn-up. Therefore, the typical ways to reduce burn-up reactivity swing are to increase conversion ratio via fissile enrichment reduction and to reduce neutron parasitic capture. Here, the conversion ratio is defined as the amount of fissile materials production divided by the amount of neutron absorption, that is, fission and capture, and natural decay of fissile materials. It is difficult, however, for a uranium-free core to increase the conversion ratio because fissile enrichment cannot be controlled in the absence of uranium. Although the reduction of neutron parasitic capture by neutron spectrum hardening improves burn-up reactivity swing, it also harms the Doppler effect. For these reasons, when it comes to uranium-free core, increase of the fissile amount at the beginning of the cycle makes sense because it reduces the ratio of the fissile consumption to the fissile amount at the beginning of the cycle.

These candidates were parametrically surveyed to evaluate the feasibility of the uranium-free TRU metallic fuel fast reactor core in light of aforementioned issues. The targets assumed were the core performances with the Doppler reactivity coefficient equivalent to a conventional U-Pu metallic fuel core. Furthermore, constrains associated with fuel fabrication such as melting temperature was taken into consideration because, in this evaluation, diluent material was assumed to be used as a fuel slug alloy, not cladding material. Hence, the slug was assumed be

Table 15.1 Assumed condition of the 300 MWe fast reactor core for the parametric survey

Fig. 15.2 RZ geometry for parametric survey

fabricated by injection casting as the same as the conventional metallic fuel. This step makes the allowable maximum melting temperature of the fuel alloy less than 1,200 oC to prevent Am volatilization during injection casting [12].

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