Increased fuel burn up in a CANDU thorium reactor using weapon grade plutonium
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Weapon grade plutonium is used as a booster fissile fuel material in the form of mixed ThO2/PuO2 fuel in a Canada Deuterium Uranium (CANDU) fuel bundle in order to assure the initial criticality at startup. Two different fuel compositions have been used: (1) 97% thoria (ThO2) + 3PuO(2) and (2) 92% ThO2 + 5% UO2 + 3% PuO2. The latter is used to denaturize the new U-233 fuel with U-238. The temporal variation of the criticality k(infinity) and the burn-up values of the reactor have been calculated by full power operation for a period of 20 years. The criticality starts by k infinity = similar to 1.48 for both fuel compositions. A sharp decrease of the criticality has been observed in the first year as a consequence of rapid plutonium burnout. The criticality becomes quasi constant after the second year and remains above k infinity > 1.06 for similar to 20 years. After the second year, the CANDU reactor begins to operate practically as a thorium burner. Very high burn up could be achieved with the same fuel material (up to 500,000 (MWD)-D-./T), provided that the fuel rod claddings would be replaced periodically (after every 50,000 or 100,000 MW.D/T). The reactor criticality will be sufficient until a great fraction of the thorium fuel is burnt up. This would reduce fuel fabrication costs and nuclear waste mass for final disposal per unit energy drastically. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.