Application of advanced fuel concepts for use in innovative pressurized water reactors
Author(s)Andrews, Nathan Christopher
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering.
Mujid S. Kazimi.
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This work addresses several specific knowledge gaps that exist in the use of alternative fuel and cladding combinations in a pressurized water reactor (PWR) environment. In the switch from a UO2 with zirconium-based cladding to any other combination, there is a multitude of questions that need to be answered. This work examines three of these knowledge gaps: (1) the disposition of weapons-grade plutonium in thorium and silicon carbide cladding, (2) economics of accident tolerant fuel (ATF) claddings and (3) breeding of plutonium in uranium nitride fuel. Burning weapons-grade plutonium in a standard pressurized water reactor (PWR) using thoria as a fuel matrix has been compared to using urania. Two cladding options were considered: a 0.76 mm thick silicon carbide ceramic matrix composite (SiC CMC) and 0.57 mm thick standard Zircaloy cladding. A large benefit was found in using thoria compared to urania in terms of plutonium percentage and mass burned. A slightly smaller mass of plutonium is required in a core with SiC CMC cladding, due to its lower neutron absorption compared to Zircaloy. The thorium system was also better from a non-proliferation viewpoint, resulting in less fissile mass at discharge and more fissile mass burned over an assembly's lifetime. A limited safety comparison was made for two reactivity insertion accidents: (1) highest worth rod ejection accident (REA) and (2) main steam line break (MSLB). The MSLB accident demonstrated a safe value for the minimum departure from nucleate boiling ratio. The maximum enthalpy added to the fuel during the REA was also below current regulatory limits for PWRs. This indicates that the more negative moderator temperature coefficients of thoria-plutonia and urania-plutonia fuel, compared to a typical PWR design, were not limiting. For an ATF cladding to replace zirconium alloys, it must be economically viable by having similar fuel cycle costs to today's materials. Four proposed materials are examined: stainless steel (SS), FeCrAl alloy, molybdenum (Mo) and SiC CMC, each having its own development time and costs. The chosen cladding thicknesses were dependent on strength and manufacturing constraints. It was found that all options may end up requiring higher enrichment than zirconium-based claddings for the same fuel cycle length. If the present value of avoiding a reactor accident with a large radioactivity release is estimated using past experience for LWR large accidents and if it is assumed that ATF cladding is able to prevent such release, there is a definite net economic benefit relative to typical Zircaloy cladding only in using SiC, since it only results in a small fuel cycle cost increase. There is only a marginal benefit in using SiC to prevent a core-only loss without radioactivity release (TMI-type) accident and a large loss using metallic ATF concepts. The thermal hydraulic and neutronic feasibility of a nitride fueled pressurized water reactor (PWR) breeder design were examined. Because of its higher fuel density, nitride fuel would be preferable to traditional oxide fuel in attempting to achieve breeding in a PWR. The design chosen uses large hexagonal assemblies with 14 inner seed pin rows and 4 outer blanket pin rows. In this design, reactor grade plutonium of 12.75 wtHM was used as fuel. Nitride was also simulated as being 100% N-15, to limit neutronic penalties and C-14 production. The as specified assembly model only achieved a fissile inventory ratio (FIR) value above 1.0 when the thimble regions were assumed to be voided, which lowers the H/HM ratio in the assembly. This led to FIR values above 1.0 for the oxide, 85% theoretical density nitride (N85) and 95% theoretical density nitride (N95). All were at an FIR of 1.03 at 35 MWd/kgHM. However, the single batch discharge burnup of the voided assembly in MWd/kgHM was 32.2 for N95, 24.5 for N85, while only 15.6 for the oxide.
Thesis: Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, 2015.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 198-202).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Nuclear Science and Engineering.