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Developed Uranium-Free TRU Metallic Core

This chapter describes specifications for selection of a uranium-free TRU metallic core and performance of the uranium-free TRU metallic core. Then, the core and fuel are developed on the basis of those results and the feasibility of the developed core is evaluated.

Specification Selected for Uranium-Free TRU Metallic Core

On the basis of the results of the parametric surveys, the uranium-free TRU burning core was specified as shown in Table 15.3 and Fig. 15.5. TRU-Zr alloy fuel pins and BeO pins were employed to enhance the Doppler coefficient. The reason for adopting the TRU-Zr alloy fuel is to use a simpler fuel fabrication method, that is, injection casting, in contrast to a TRU-Zr particle fuel in a zirconium metal matrix. Then, the zirconium content in TRU-Zr alloy was assumed to be limited below 35 wt% to keep the melting point of the TRU-Zr alloy below 1,200 oC to prevent Am vaporization during injection casting [19]. The fuel pins and the BeO pins were separately located in the fuel subassemblies (Fig. 15.6). The diameter of fuel pins was reduced from 0.65 to 0.48 cm to compensate for the increase of the average linear heat rate caused by employment of the BeO pins. Core height is 65 cm to reduce burn-up reactivity swing, whereas the core diameter was increased from 180 to 250 cm to keep the linear heat rate of the fuel pin similar to the 93-cmheight core. The operation cycle length is 150 days, which can be controlled by conventional control rods and fixed neutron absorbers.

Fig. 15.5 Uranium-free core layout

Performance of the Uranium-Free TRU Metallic Core

The core performance of the developed uranium-free core was evaluated as shown in Table 15.4. The Zr content in the fuel alloy was determined to maintain criticality during the operation cycle under the conditions of the upper limit of the melting point, 1,200 oC. According to the results, the uranium-free TRU metallic core is viable in terms of core performance, safety performance, fuel fabrication, and TRU burner.

The Doppler coefficient is similar to that of the conventional metallic fuel fast reactor cores, and the burn-up reactivity swing is considered to be controllable by conventional control rods and fixed absorbers. Moreover, core sodium void reactivity including the upper plenum region is negative because of neutron leakage at the upper plenum region and neutron spectrum moderation from the presence of BeO during sodium voiding. Although the restriction for sodium void reactivity

Fig. 15.6 Fuel subassembly cross section

Table 15.4 Performance of the uranium-free TRU metallic core



Fuel composition


Inner core/outer core

TRU inventory (Pu/MA)

2.17 t at BOEC (1.89/0.28 t)

Burn-up reactivity swing

5.1 % dk/kk0

Power density (average)

260 W/cc

Linear heat rate (average)

220 W/cm

TRU burning rate (Pu/MA)

260 kg/EFPY (230/30 kg/EFPY)

Doppler coefficient at EOEC

-3 x 10-3 Tdk/dT

Na void reactivity at EOEC

<0 %dk/kk0

EOEC end of equilibrium cycle, EFPY effective full-power year

was not assumed for the core in this study, low sodium void reactivity is a significant factor for sodium-cooled fast reactors.

Furthermore, the developed core design has the potential to achieve passive safety features against unprotected events such as unprotected loss of flow (ULOF) and unprotected transient overpower (UTOP) similar to a conventional metallic fuel core because the basic core safety parameters, that is, average and peak linear heat rates for lower fuel temperatures, the enhanced Doppler coefficient, and low sodium void coefficient (negative sodium coefficient in whole core), were maintained within the similar ranges of a conventional metallic fuel core design [20].

166 K. Ishii et al.

Feasibility in the light of decay heat is also confirmed to be practicable, as the decay heat of the fresh fuel material is 32 W/kgHM, which is less than 10 % of that of the minor actinide (MA)-only fuel. Also, the decay heat of the fresh fuel subassembly is approximately 240 W. Taking advantage of some cooling scheme such as air flow, this fuel can be fabricated as a fuel pin bundle [21].

Moreover, the results also shows the profitability of the uranium-free TRU metallic fuel fast reactor itself, because a 1-year operation of this 300 MWe TRU-burning fast reactor burns 260 kg TRU, corresponding to the amount produced by a 1.2 GWe-year operation of a conventional LWR.

For all these reasons, the TRU-burning fast reactor using uranium-free TRU metallic fuel is considered to be feasible. Further study such as reduction of burn-up reactivity swing and trade-off of various countermeasures considering economic aspect helps improve and optimize the core design in the next phase.


A TRU transmutation system associated with the uranium-free metallic fuel fast reactor is a practical way to burn TRU with sustainability, fewer R&D needs, and a simple system, because it can be used as both a TRU burner and a power supply plant. Employment of pyro-processing for recycling reduces the burden of R&D requirements, and introduction of a conventional fuel fabrication method and pyroprocessing allows less complex facilities.

In this study, two main issues related to the uranium-free core were investigated and discussed to clarify the feasibility of a TRU-burning fast reactor cycle using such a core: Doppler coefficient for reactor safety, and burn-up reactivity swing for acceptable reactor operating cycle length.

The results show that the uranium-free fast TRU fast reactor core is viable because those issues can be solved by TRU-Zr alloy fuel, BeO neutron moderator, and reduced core height. Thanks to the BeO pins that function not only as a neutron moderator but also as a diluent material, the 35 %Zr alloy fuel can be fabricated without Am vaporization because its melting point is maintained below 1,200 oC, the temperature that causes Am vaporization during injection casting fuel fabrication. Moreover, the decay heat of the fresh fuel is considered to be an acceptable level for the fuel fabrication. Also, a 1-year operation of this 300 MWe core burns the TRU that is produced by 1.2 GWe-year operation of a conventional LWR.

In conclusion, the prospect of a TRU-burning fast reactor cycle using uraniumfree metallic fuel was confirmed. Further study, not only to improve core performances but also to develop a recycling process associated with this uranium-free system, which is currently under way, promotes realization of the system.

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