2024 journal article

METAL: Methodology for liquid metal fast reactor core economic design and fuel loading pattern optimization

Progress in Nuclear Energy.

Source: ORCID
Added: May 1, 2024

The design of Liquid Metal-cooled Fast Reactor (LMFR) cores encompass two levels of design. The first is the physical core design, which is concerned with the design of the fuel assembly geometry in the context of a full core. The second is the fuel loading design, which is an in-core fuel management problem concerned with the design of fuel enrichment and core loading pattern. In this paper, an optimized fuel design search is developed to improve core loading patterns. As part of the implementation, the multiphysics simulation suite LUPINE has been enhanced to allow for fuel shuffles and an in-core fuel management optimization methodology has been added with the objective of reducing the fuel cost. The design methodology is referred to as Methodology for Economical opTimization of Applied LMFR (METAL), and this methodology is demonstrated using the popular Super Power Reactor Innovative Small Modular (SPRISM) sodium-cooled fast reactor (SFR) as a reference core. One challenge currently facing the deployment of LMFRs is the availability of TRansUranium (TRU) and high assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) driver fuel. The two forms of fuel are expensive and not widely available, which poses a challenge on the startup of LMFR cores. To address the availability of driver fuel, and to lower fuel costs, low enriched uranium (LEU) blankets are investigated as replacements to the natural uranium or depleted uranium blankets typically used. The advantage of this solution is the wide availability of LEU and its ability to lower the amount of TRU or HALEU driver fuel needed. The design objectives, constraints, and optimization algorithm for a SFR are identified. Then, METAL is applied to design a SFR core fueled by TRU driver fuel assemblies and LEU blanket assemblies. To demonstrate the advantage of introducing LEU blankets, METAL is also used to design another SFR core following the same objectives and constraints, but using naturally enriched blankets. By comparing the two cores, it was found that the introduction of LEU blankets results in a ∼28% reduction in the driver fuel mass requirements. Upon development of a levelized fuel cycle cost (LFCC) model, the 28% reduction in driver fuel mass corresponds to a 10% decrease in the LFCC. Additional advantages of using LEU blankets include reducing the core conversion ratio (CR), and improving the assembly radial power peaking factor (RPPF), which enhances the safety and non-proliferation performances of the SFR core.