Friday, March 28, 2008

Thorium Fuel Cycle Advantages

Introduction: This Russian paper, translated by the IAEA nicely lays out some of the advantages of the thorium fuel cycle.

by B.D. Kuz’minov, and V.N. Manokhin Russian Federation State Science Centre, Institute of Physics and Power Engineering, Obninsk

Adoption of the thorium fuel cycle would offer the following advantages:
- Increased nuclear fuel resources thanks to the production of 233U from 232Th;
- Significant reduction in demand for the enriched isotope 235U;
- Very low (compared with the uranium-plutonium fuel cycle) production of long-lived radiotoxic wastes, including transuraniums, plutonium and transplutoniums;
- Possibility of accelerating the burnup of plutonium without the need for recycling, i.e. rapid reduction of existing plutonium stocks;
- Higher fuel burnup than in the uranium-plutonium cycle;
- Low excess reactivity of the core with thorium-based fuel, and more favourable temperature and void reactivity coefficients;
- High radiation and corrosion resistance of thorium-based fuel;
- Considerably higher melting point and the better thermal conductivity of thorium-based fuel;
- Good conditions for ensuring the non-proliferation of nuclear materials.

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