The current Modular Helium Reactor (MHR) fuel cycle uses fissile LEU (19.8 wt% U-235) and depleted uranium in separate TRISO particles, in a single fuel rod within a graphite matrix. The TRISO particle volume packing fraction (PF) in the fuel rods is 29%, of which the LEU particle PF is 62%. The lifetime between refuelings is about 476 effective full power days (EFPD). In this paper we assess the possibility of replacing the depleted uranium TRISO particles with thorium TRISO particles, and evaluate the impact of such replacement on fuel cycle length. A preliminary scoping study was performed to determine the most promising fuel rod/zoning configurations. The scoping study indicates that there is advantage to separating the thorium TRISO particles from the LEU particles at the fuel rod level instead of mixing them within a single rod. An axial checkerboard distribution of the fuel rods where all uranium and all thorium rods are interchangeable along the axial direction within the graphite block is the most promising configuration that was identified in this study and can be lead to a fuel cycle length extension of 50% to 80% relative to the current design, with only a modest increase in the fissile material loading (15%–20%). To this advantage can be added the benefit of a significant reduction in nuclear waste and in health risk. This study also lays the foundation for improving the fuel rod arrangement within the graphite block and the graphite blocks within the entire reactor core. The analysis is limited to a once-through fuel cycle based on in-situ fissioning of the U-233, without further separation and reprocessing.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.