Multiple Usage of Thorium-Based Fuel in a VVER-1000 Reactor
This paper considers the use of unconventional fuel in nuclear power reactors, using the example of a VVER-type unit, in order to find out the possibility of saving natural fissile uranium nuclei. Saving fissile uranium is one of the important tasks, the solution of which will give time for the development of a two-component nuclear power industry that will have no problems with fuel resources. However, at present, the reserves of cheap uranium can provide the existing level of global nuclear energy for only 80 – 100 years. The main components of this proposed fuel are 232Th and fissile isotopes of uranium: 235U (loaded) and 233U (produced from thorium). All uranium isotopes and added 235U nuclei at the beginning of the campaign account for about 6% of the number of thorium nuclei and uranium isotopes. The abbreviated name of this fuel is TORUR-5.
To keep fissionable nuclei in the fuel cycle after the spent fuel is unloaded, it is envisaged that all heavy nuclei will be returned back to the reactor after they have been cleaned from fission fragments, i.e., the fuel cycle will be closed. At the same time, the principle of annual movement of fuel assemblies (as they burn up) is the same as in the existing VVER-1000 reactors.
Using the Serpent PC, a reactor model was built, the composition and dimensions of which were close to the parameters of the VVER-1000 serial unit. The main results of calculations were the quantitative compositions of isotopes annually loaded into the reactor as well as the amounts of uranium-235 and thorium added also annually. The analysis of the obtained results allowed us to make the following conclusions.
The annual reloading of 235U during the computation period is required almost at a constant level and, in comparison with uranium fuel, is about half as much. This is done for the following reasons. Part of the fissions of 235U is replaced by the fission of 233U produced from 232Th. In addition, fissionable nuclei are kept in the closed Th-U fuel cycle. This is the first «plus» of the proposed fuel.
TORUR-5 requires uranium enriched to at least 90%, the cost of which is several times higher than that of 3 – 5% enriched uranium. But since much less highly enriched uranium is required, the cost of fuel for a TORUR-5-fuelled VVER-1000 reactor is significantly lower. This is the second «plus» of the proposed fuel.
The negative characteristic of TORUR-5, which requires further investigation, is that, after the initial loading, several uranium isotopes appear in the returned fuel, the total radioactivity of which, according to estimates, exceeds the radioactivity of traditional 3–5% enriched uranium fuel by several thousand times. At the same time, the radioactivity of discharged spent conventional fuel exceeds the radioactivity of fresh fuel by millions of times, and this problem has been solved at NPPs both organizationally and technically. Therefore, it will be necessary to develop a technology for loading TORUR-5, taking into account the estimated radioactivity.
Link for citing the article: Kazansky Yu.A., Kushnir N.O., Khnykina E.S. Multiple Usage of Thorium-Based Fuel in a VVER-1000 Reactor. Izvestiya vuzov. Yadernaya Energetika. 2022, no. 3, pp. 53-64; DOI: https://doi.org/10.26583/npe.2022.3.05 (in Russian).