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Thorium for use in plutonium disposition, proliferation-resistant fuels for developing Countries and future reactor designs

AuteurBrian Johnson
Datumapril 2006
Classificatie (THORIUM CYCLUS)

Uit de publicatie:

    Thorium for Use in Plutonium Disposition,
    Proliferation-Resistant Fuels for Developing
       Countries, and Future Reactor Designs

                   Brian Johnson
                Oregon State University
                     WISE 2006
                      Sponsored By
Executive Summary

       Thorium has been examined as an alternate nuclear fuel source to uranium since the
1960s. Early experiments were aimed at generating electricity as economically as possible.
These early thorium fuels provided poorer than expected performance in contemporary reactors
and resulted in significantly higher costs than typical uranium fuel. While thorium-based fuels
may not be economically competitive to uranium in current reactor designs, there are some
policy goals to which thorium is well suited:

   •   Plutonium disposition—destroying and degrading of weapons-grade plutonium.
   •   Proliferation-resistant fuels for developing nations—ensuring global security.
   •   Next generation fuel cycles—extracting maximum energy while minimizing waste.

        The first two goals can be achieved using a modern thorium-based fuel design in current
reactors that has better economic performance. The last goal would be best achieved using
thorium in a molten salt reactor. In addition to being suitable for use in the molten salt reactor,
thorium will be researched as a possible fuel for the Next Generation Nuclear Plant.
        As it stands, the joint plutonium disposition plans of the United State and Russia have
stalled. This is because MOX, the technology chosen to undertake disposition, has taken more
time and money than expected. In addition to this, Russia refuses to bear any of the cost of
plutonium disposition through the use of MOX. This has opened the door to other options
including thorium based fuels. A program in Russia examining thorium-based fuels has made a
lot of progress and promises to be an excellent way to dispose of plutonium. The United States
cannot directly benef