Deep burn strategy for the optimized incineration of reactor waste plutonium in pebble bed high temperature gas–cooled reactors
Serfontein, Dawid Eduard.
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In this thesis advanced fuel cycles for the incineration, i.e. deep–burn, of weapons–grade plutonium, reactor–grade plutonium from pressurised light water reactors and reactor–grade plutonium + the associated Minor Actinides in the 400 MWth Pebble Bed Modular Reactor Demonstration Power Plant was simulated with the VSOP 99/05 diffusion code. These results were also compared to the standard 9 g/fuel sphere U/Pu 9.6% enriched uranium fuel cycle. The addition of the Minor Actinides to the reactor–grade plutonium caused an unacceptable decrease in the burn–up and thus an unacceptable increase in the heavy metal (HM) content in the spent fuel, which is intended for direct disposal in a deep geological repository, without chemical reprocessing. All the Pu fuel cycles failed the adopted safety limits in that either the maximum fuel temperature of 1130°C, during normal operation, or the maximum power of 4.5 kW/sphere was exceeded. All the Pu cycles also produced positive Uniform Temperature Reactivity Coefficients, i.e. the coefficient where the temperature of the fuel and the graphite moderator in the fuel spheres are varied together. these positive temperature coefficients were experienced at low temperatures, typically below 700°C. This was due to the influence of the thermal fission resonance of 241Pu. The safety performance of the weapons–grade plutonium was the worst. The safety performance of the reactor–grade plutonium also deteriorated when the heavy metal loading was reduced from 3 g/sphere to 2 g or 1 g. In view of these safety problems, these Pu fuel cycles were judged to be not licensable in the PBMR DPP–400 reactor. Therefore a redesign of the fuel cycle for reactor–grade plutonium, the power conversion system and the reactor geometry was proposed in order to solve these problems. The main elements of these proposals are: 1. The use of 3 g reactor–grade plutonium fuel spheres should be the point of departure. 232Th will then be added in order to restore negative Uniform Temperature Reactivity Coefficients. 2. The introduction of neutron poisons into the reflectors, in order to suppress the power density peaks and thus the temperature peaks. 3. In order to counter the reduction in burn–up by this introduction of neutron poisons, a thinning of the central reflector was proposed.
- Engineering