Date of Award

9-1998

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Engineering Physics

Supervisor

Professor D.S. Wilkinson

Co-Supervisor

Professor A.A. Harms

Abstract

A new fission reactor system with passive safety characteristics to eliminate the occurrence of loss-of-coolant accidents, reduce reactivity excursion effects, and which also provides for closure of the nuclear fuel cycle through on-site spent fuel management is examined. The concept uses multi-coated fuel pellets which are suspended by an upward moving coolant in vertical columns of the reactor core and electro-refining elemental separation to remove selected fission products prior to actinide recycling. The possibility of fuel melt following a loss-of-coolant is avoided as a decrease in coolant flow results in the removal of fuel from the core through the action of gravity alone. Average fluid velocities in the columns which are necessary to suspend the pellets are calculated and found to be consistent with the necessary heat extraction to yield ~1-10MWth per column. The total output power of such suspended pellet-type reactors is compared to the power necessary to provide the suspending fluid flow, yielding favourable ratios of ~10² - 10³ The reduction of reactivity excursion tendencies is envisaged through an ablative layer of material in the pellets which sublimates at temperatures above normal operating conditions. In the event of a power or temperature increase the particles fragment and thereby change their hydrodynamic drag characteristics, thus leading to fuel removal from the core by elutriation. Comparison of nuclear-to-thermal response times and elutriation rates for limiting power transients indicate that the present design assets in reactivity excursion mitigation. Closure of the nuclear fuel cycle is attained through a spent fuel management strategy which requires only on-site storage of a fraction of the fission products produced during reactor operation. Electro-refining separation of selected fission products combined with complete actinide recycling yields no isolation of plutonium or highly enriched uranium during the procedure. The out-of-core waste stream has a significantly reduced radioactivity, volume and lifetime compared to the once-through waste management strategy and thus provides an alternative to long-term geological disposal of fission reactor wastes. The Pellet Suspension Reactor concept possesses some unique operating characteristics and, additionally, is shown to be similar to conventional fission reactors in terms of common performance features.

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