MA Transmutation Core Concept
MA transmutation core concepts are developed by considering the amount of MA loading and the safety-related core parameters. Increase of MA loading in the core of a SFR makes the amount of MA transmutation large, which may decrease longterm radiotoxicity and decay heat of MA. On the other hand, loading a large amount of MA into the core of a SFR increases the sodium void reactivity. Therefore, harmonization of MA transmutation and sodium void reactivity is a key issue in designing the core concepts. As an example, Fig. 17.1 shows the relationship of MA content and sodium void reactivity; when the MA content is about 10 %, the sodium void reactivity increases by about 1$.
A homogeneous MA-loaded core of 750 MWe was designed in the FaCT project [1, 2] (Fig. 17.2). The configuration of this core is a conventional homogeneous core and homogeneous MA loading into the core fuel increases sodium void reactivity. Therefore, MA content in the core fuel assembly is limited to less than about 5 wt%. On the other hand, the safety issue has become more and more important since the Fukushima Daiichi NPP accident. Further, low void reactivity SFR designing has been pursued in Russia and France . In this study, the coexistence of enhanced MA transmutation and zero void reactivity, that is, the harmonization of MA transmutation and core safety, is set as an objective.
Hitachi proposed an axially heterogeneous core (AHC) concept with sodium plenum [6, 7]. It was clarified that an increase of flux level at the top of the core fuel caused by the presence of the internal blanket and decrease of the height of the inner core fuel greatly decreased sodium void reactivity. In the core concept, sodium void reactivity can be extremely reduced without disrupting core performance for normal operation. The difference in core configurations between the Hitachi AHC with sodium plenum proposed in FR '91  and the ASTRID ACV , which has been recently studied in France, is that absorber material is loaded in the upper shield for the ASTRID ACV.
We are going to optimize the specifications of the core shown in Fig. 17.3 to realize the high MA transmutation and zero sodium void reactivity. Figure 17.4
Fig. 17.1 Dependency of sodium void reactivity on minor actinide (MA) content
Fig. 17.2 Core configuration of the homogeneous MA-loaded core
shows the axial distribution of coolant density and the density coefficient of that core. The sodium density coefficient (%Δk/kk0/Δρ) in the sodium plenum becomes positive. On the other hand, sodium density change (Δρ) in the sodium plenum becomes negative because of the increase of coolant temperature for an accident such as ULOF (unprotected loss of flow accident). Therefore, net sodium void reactivity becomes negative.
The mechanism for reducing sodium void reactivity of the core is that the axial neutron leakage is largely enhanced with coolant voiding in the sodium plenum. It is known that the evaluated leakage component of sodium void reactivity with diffusion theory might be overestimated by about 50 %. Therefore, calculation
ig. 17.3 Vertical view of axially heterogeneous core with sodium plenum
Fig. 17.4 Axial distribution of coolant density and density coefficient
accuracy for sodium void reactivity of the core with a sodium plenum might be poor. Thus, we should consider change of the neutron spectrum in the heterogeneous MA loaded core. Figure 17.5 shows the neutron spectra for MOX driver fuel without MA and 10 % MA-mixed fuels in transmutation target with and without Zr-Hx. The spectrum of 10 % MA-mixed fuel in transmutation target without Zr-Hx is slightly softer than that of the MOX driver fuel without MA, because the 10 % MA-mixed fuel in the transmutation target has no fissile plutonium but the MOX driver fuel includes 239Pu and 241Pu. The neutron spectrum of the moderator mixture target fuel is clearly softer than other fuels.
Fig. 17.5 Neutron spectra for MOX fuel and MA transmutation target fuels