Isotopic and spectral effects of Pu quality in Th-Pu fueled PWRs

06 Jun 2018

UK plutonium (Pu) management is expected to focus on the use of uranium-plutonium (U-Pu) mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. However, research has shown that thorium-plutonium (Th-Pu) may be a viable alternative, offering favourable performance characteristics. A scoping study was carried out to determine the effect of isotopic composition and spectral hardening in standard and reduced moderation Pressurised Water Reactors (PWRs and RMPWRs). Lattice calculations were performed using WIMS to investigate safety parameters (Doppler Coefficient (DC), Moderator Temperature Coefficient (MTC), Void Coefficient (VC) – in this case Fully Voided Reactivity (FVR) – and Boron Worth (BW)), maximum theoretically achievable discharge burnup, Pu consumption and transuranic (TRU) composition of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) for the two reactor types. Standard grades of Pu were compared to a predicted UK Pu vector. MTC and FVR were found to be strongly influenced by the isotopic composition of the fuel. MTC was determined to be particularly sensitive to positive ‘peak’ contributions from fissile isotopes in the energy range 0.1–1 eV which diminish as the Pu content increases. The more extreme nature of the perturbation in FVR cases results in key differences in the contributions from fissile isotopes in the thermal energy range when compared with MTC, with no positive contributions from any isotope <500 eV. Where the requirement for MTC to remain negative was the limiting factor, a higher maximum fissile loading, discharge burnup and Pu consumption rate were possible in the PWR than the RMPWR, although the two reactors types typically produced similar levels of U233. However, for the majority of Pu grades the total minor actinide (MA) content in SNF was shown to be significantly lower in the RMPWR. Where FVR is the limiting factor, the maximum fissile loading and discharge burnup are similar in both reactor types, while increased Pu consumption rates were possible in the PWR. In this case, lower concentrations of U233 and MAs were found to be present in the PWR. These results are for a single pass of fuel through a reactor and, while the response of fissile isotopes at given energies to temperature perturbations will not vary significantly, the maximum achievable discharge burnup, Pu consumption rate and TRU build-up would be very different in a multi-recycle scenario.