Sustainable thorium nuclear fuel cycles: A comparison of intermediate and fast neutron spectrum systems

N. R. Brown, J. J. Powers, B. Feng, F. Heidet, N. E. Stauff, G. Zhang, M. Todosow, A. Worrall, J. C. Gehin, T. K. Kim, T. A. Taiwo

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    27 Scopus citations


    This paper presents analyses of possible reactor representations of a nuclear fuel cycle with continuous recycling of thorium and produced uranium (mostly U-233) with thorium-only feed. The analysis was performed in the context of a U.S. Department of Energy effort to develop a compendium of informative nuclear fuel cycle performance data. The objective of this paper is to determine whether intermediate spectrum systems, having a majority of fission events occurring with incident neutron energies between 1 eV and 105 eV, perform as well as fast spectrum systems in this fuel cycle. The intermediate spectrum options analyzed include tight lattice heavy or light water-cooled reactors, continuously refueled molten salt reactors, and a sodium-cooled reactor with hydride fuel. All options were modeled in reactor physics codes to calculate their lattice physics, spectrum characteristics, and fuel compositions over time. Based on these results, detailed metrics were calculated to compare the fuel cycle performance. These metrics include waste management and resource utilization, and are binned to accommodate uncertainties. The performance of the intermediate systems for this self-sustaining thorium fuel cycle was similar to a representative fast spectrum system. However, the number of fission neutrons emitted per neutron absorbed limits performance in intermediate spectrum systems.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)252-265
    Number of pages14
    JournalNuclear Engineering and Design
    StatePublished - May 28 2015

    All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

    • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
    • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
    • General Materials Science
    • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
    • Waste Management and Disposal
    • Mechanical Engineering


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