Non-proliferative, thorium-based, core and fuel cycle for pressurized water reactors

Gilad Raitses, Michael Todosow, Alex Galperin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Two of the major barriers to the expansion of worldwide adoption of nuclear power are related to proliferation potential of the nuclear fuel cycle and issues associated with the final disposal of spent fuel. The Radkowsky Thorium Fuel (RTF) concept proposed by Professor A. Radkowsky offers a partial solution to these problems. The main idea of the concept is the utilization of the seed-blanket unit (SBU) fuel assembly geometry which is a direct replacement for a "conventional" assembly in either a Russian pressurized water reactor (VVER-1000) or a Western pressurized water reactor (PWR). The seed-blanket fuel assembly consists of a fissile (U) zone, known as seed, and a fertile (Th) zone known as blanket. The separation of fissile and fertile allows separate fuel management schemes for the thorium part of the fuel (a subcritical "blanket") and the "driving" part of the core (a supercritical "seed"). The design objective for the blanket is an efficient generation and in-situ fissioning of the U233 isotope, while the design objective for the seed is to supply neutrons to the blanket in a most economic way, i.e. with minimal investment of natural uranium. The introduction of thorium as a fertile component in the nuclear fuel cycle significantly reduces the quantity of plutonium production and modifies its isotopic composition, reducing the overall proliferation potential of the fuel cycle. Thorium based spent fuel also contains fewer higher actinides, hence reducing the long-term radioactivity of the spent fuel. The analyses show that the RTF core can satisfy the requirements of fuel cycle length, and the safety margins of conventional pressurized water reactors. The coefficients of reactivity are comparable to currently operating VVER's/PWR's. The major feature of the RTF cycle is related to the total amount of spent fuel discharged for each cycle from the reactor core. The fuel management scheme adopted for RTF core designs allows a significant decrease in the amount of discharged spent fuel, for a given energy production, compared with standard VVER/PWR. The total Pu production rate of RTF cycles is only 30 % of standard reactor. In addition, the isotopic compositions of the RTF's and standard reactor grade Pu are markedly different due to the very high bumup accumulated by the RTF spent fuel.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 17th International Conference on Nuclear Engineering 2009, ICONE17
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2009
Event17th International Conference on Nuclear Engineering, ICONE17 - Brussels, Belgium
Duration: 12 Jul 200916 Jul 2009

Publication series

NameInternational Conference on Nuclear Engineering, Proceedings, ICONE


Conference17th International Conference on Nuclear Engineering, ICONE17

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering


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