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An Introduction to

Nuclear Power and Resources


Lars Husdal

June 2009



With a continuation of today’s nuclear policy the present resources of uranium are esti-
mated to last for abound 40-50 years. By including fertile elements, both uranium and
thorium, in the fuel-cycle, the potential nuclear fuel can be multiplied considerably.
The first part of this paper tries go the give the general reader a introduction to the
concepts and the physics behind nuclear power. The second part is dedicated to nuclear
resources - present and future, with analyses and discussing about the different fuel types,
”peaking” in their consumption and new fuel cycles. Some mathematical models have
been studied, developed and applied to particular cases. This paper is based on my master
thesis ”On prerequisites and Inventory for a Nuclear Renaissance” [1]




Abstract i

1 Introduction 1
1.1 Global Energy Situation and Projections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
1.2 Greenhouse Gases and the Kyoto Protocol . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
1.3 Short History of Nuclear Power . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
1.4 Nuclear Activity in Norway . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

2 An Introduction to Nuclear Physics and Power Plants 7
2.1 A Short Nuclear Physics’ Primer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
2.1.1 Nomenclature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
2.1.2 Flux and Cross Section . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
2.1.3 The Nucleus’ Mass . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
2.1.4 Conservation of Energy (Q-value) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
2.1.5 Radiation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
2.1.6 Fission . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
2.2 Reactor Physics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
2.2.1 Basic Criteria for Nuclear Fuel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
2.2.2 Fission Products and Released Neutrons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
2.2.3 Neutron Balance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
2.2.4 Criticality and Delayed Neutrons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
2.2.5 Moderator . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
2.2.6 Coolant . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
2.2.7 Control Rods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
2.2.8 Void Coefficient . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
2.3 Nuclear Power Plants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
2.3.1 Types of Reactors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
2.3.2 Future reactors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

3 Evaluation of Resources and Fuel 25
3.1 Mathematical Model for Consumption of Finite Resources . . . . . . . . . 25
3.1.1 Use and Interpretation of the Model . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
3.2 Nuclear Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32


. . . . . . . .3 Thorium Resources . . . .2 Reprocessing. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2. . . . . 32 3. . . . . 43 3. . . . . 44 Conclusion 47 iv . . . . .3 Nuclear Fuel . . . . . 37 3. . . . . . . . . . .4 Qualitative Picture of Nuclear Fuel Resources . . . . . . . . . 34 3. .3. . . .1 Fissile Elements . . . . . . 38 3. . . . . . . .3. . . . .2. . . . .2. .1 The Open Fuel Cycle (Once-Through) for Uranium . . . . . . . . . . . .3.4 Benefits of Using Thorium Fuel . . . . . . . . 3. . Closed Fuel Cycles and Radioactive Waste . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 3. . . . . . . 42 3. . . . . .2. . . . . .3 Mixed Fuel .2 Uranium Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3. . . . . . . 39 3. . . . . .

The trend in the nuclear industry is going from being a domestic issue to more inter- national cooperation. both regarding reactor design and international cooperation. This is an OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) project focused on operation safety studies. It has a good record of wide international collaboration and hopefully will be maintained as an international resource in the time to come. 1 . featuring among other things enhanced safety and operating conditions. Republic of Korea. and the American initiated ”Generation IV Interna- tional forum (GIF) are good examples. in which the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR). Japan. the Halden-project has been running for 51 years. or should. What fraction the nuclear option could. United Kingdom and United States. of which 9 have signed a framework agreement. whether its role is expanded or reduced. have in the future energy mix is a subject open for debate. is the first generation III+ reactor being built1 . The next (fourth) generation reactors which will be a huge leap. developed by French Areva and German Siemens. Russian Federation. As an example (GIF) has gathered all the major nuclear powers2 . France. 2 Argentina.Chapter 1 Introduction Nuclear power is already here. 1 Initially scheduled to be commissioned in 2009. Republic of South Africa. Brazil. People’s Republic of China. To maintain and build up new knowledge and competence in the field is essential to secure a safe and responsible future. and will continue to play an important role in the global energy-situation in times to come. both pro and con for a nuclear renaissance. On the Norwegian side. The EPR being built in Olkiluoto. Canada. Euratom. the project has been postponed several times and is now expected to be commissioned in 2012. Finland. and there are arguments. Switzerland.

Source: ”International Energy Outlook 2008” [3]. Electricity produced from coal-fired power stations is estimated to double production between 2005 and 2030. equal to that of hydro and comparable to natural gas. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA)[2] and the American Energy Information Admin- istration (EIA)[3] the worlds energy demand will be between 50% and 55% higher in 2030 compared to that of 2005. In today’s electricity-mix nuclear power is already a significant contributor. electricity in particular.1. 2 . Current and estimated energy.1. As a concrete example: China opens a new coal power plant every second week [4]). The biggest increases will come in developing countries (non- OECD).1: Energy (top) and electricity (bottom) consumption and projections by regions (left) and energy source (right).055 joule). and is estimated to be so for many decades.1 Global Energy Situation and Projections The global energy consumption is increasing rapidly. Figure 1.and electricity consumption given by regions and energy source is given in Fig. Coal is currently the energy source witch experiences the most rapid increase. Projections estimate an increase of nuclear power by around 25% by 2030. (1 Btu = 1.1. with a share of 16%.

To address the treat of global warming the UN Convention on Environment and De- velopment (UNCED) was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. 1945 the first nuclear bomb was tested in New Mexico.S. The annual CO2 emission in the world in 2004 was more than 27 billion tons [7] and the amount is growing every year.3 Short History of Nuclear Power Nuclear fission was first seen and explained in the late 1930’s. that the focus was to strong on short-term reduction and the framework on emission trading. 3 . being responsible for one quarter of the global CO2 emission. in particular methane. nitrous oxide and CFC-gasses. the Chicago Pile-1. The total global energy use in 2005 was 135000 TWh [6] of which 85 % was from fossil fuels. It reached criticality on December 2.1. 3 A natural fission reactor were located in Oklo. The Calder Hall reactor in England became the first commercial power plant and opened in 1956. Two years earlier electricity was first made from a nuclear reactor. was built by Enrico Fermi and his team. however did not sign the agreement.. and some said that the cost of electricity in the future would be ”to cheap to meter” [9]. Other greenhouse gas. and a few weeks later two bombs were dropped over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.S. In Chicago the worlds first (man-made3 ) reactor. The natural green- house gasses are responsible for increasing the global temperature by more than 30 degrees Celsius [4]. a self-substaining chain-reaction could occur. In the first period after the second world war the research was dominated by government control. One objective stated at the convention was that the developed world should not emit any more CO2 in 2000 than in 1990. In 1953 President Dwight D. have had a significant increase as well. leading to the Kyoto Protocol in which developed countries committed them- selves to reduce their CO2 emissions. The research received an acceleration with the outbreak of the second world war. measurements have shown that the greenhouse gasses content in the atmosphere is increasing. CO2 in the atmosphere went from an estimated concentration of around 280 ppm (parts per million) in pre industrial time to 384 ppm at present time [5]. Expectations for this new form of harnessing energy was big. In December 2009 a new UN climate summit will be held in Copenhagen. and connection to the electric grid came in the mid-fifties. The U.N. an increase of 37%. Some main concerns as viewed by the U. among them Nazi-Germany and the U. 1. Gabon 1. Several countries increased their research in the field. were: No emission targets for the developing countries. It was soon realized that since neutrons were released in the fission reaction.5 billion years ago. 1942. urging for a more peaceful use of nuclear power. In 1997 a new conference was held in Kyoto. After the industrial revolution started in the middle of the 18th century. Eisenhower held the famous ”Atoms for peace” speech at the U.2 Greenhouse Gases and the Kyoto Protocol The atmosphere has always contained a variety of greenhouse gasses. On July 16. Most countries did not manage to reach this goal.S. thus making life on Earth possible.

Two of these were Sweden and France. Iran is also in the process of building their first one. Figure 1.S. Another 48 new plants are under construction in 15 different countries.and energy prices are all reasons why nuclear power has received more supporters over the last years. and yet an increase of oil. increased this number to 13 by June 2009. decreased the interest for both nuclear power and renewable energy forms significantly. Europe. which had 6 reactors under construc- tion back in October 2008. It is also worth mentioning that China. 2009. Japan and the Soviet Union.. And indeed it seems like nuclear power may have its renaissance. there are 436 commercial reactors in operation world-wide. di- vided between 31 different countries. France (59 plants) and Japan (53 plants) are the largest contributors. and the majority of these (79%) are pressurized water reactors (PWR)[10]. Then in 1986 the Chernobyl accident.S. After the oil crises of 1973 and 1979-80 many industrialized nations turned to nuclear power to ensure a more secure and stable energy market. The U. (104 plants). In the 1960’s several nuclear power plants emerged in the U. 4 . As of June 30.2: Timeline of the different generations of nuclear power plants [8]. which today have around 50% and 80% respectively of their electricity production from nuclear power. the increased safety features and improvements to plant design. The fear of global warming due to greenhouse gases. together with falling oil prices.

Today IFE operates both the research reactors in Kjeller and Halden. HBWR is versatile when it comes to fuel and materials. Thus already in 1951. The next year (1959) the Halden reactor was operational[11]. The reactor at Kjeller is a small reactor with a maximum thermal output of 2 MW. Together with the experienced accelerator builder Odd Dahl and the politician Jens Christian Hauge an initiative was taken and the Institute For Atomic energy (IFA) was established in 1948.Figure 1. A second research reactor was decided to be built in Halden . It uses low enriched uranium. HM ator and coolant. It uses 14 tons of heavy water for both moder.King Olav V. IFA changed their name to ”Insitutt for Energiteknikk” (IFE) in 1980. 5 . ature is 240 ◦ C.The Halden project. The core has between 110 Photo: IFE and 120 fuel assemblies.4 Nuclear Activity in Norway The Norwegian experience starts back in post-war 1945 when the young astro-physisist Gunnar Randers was chosen to lead a committee to investigate the possibilities for nuclear activities in Norway. In 1958 IFA and OECD (named OEEC at the time) signed an agreement for international research . Odd Dahl and Major Arne Haugli. The fuel is 250 kg of low en- riched uranium (LEU) in the form of UO2 . After the government in 1979 decided to neglect nuclear power as an opportunity for Norway for the next 20 years. ba- sic scientific research in physics and radia- tion of materials for technical and industrial needs [13]. The JEEP-II reactor is used as a neutron source. the only nuclear reactors in Norway. In 1967 the reactor at Kjeller was replaced by the JEEP-II reactor.3: From the left: Gunnar Randers.The Halden Boiling Water Reactor (HBWR).5 million in 2006 [12]. using heavy water (D2 O) as both moderator and coolant.1. Norway had its first research reactor. The HBWR is a little bigger and has a maximum thermal output of a 25 MW. 4 Joint Establishment Experimental Pile. with a turnover of NOK 533. the JEEP-I4 reactor at Kjeller. The operational temper. and the three primary tasks are the production of radioactive medicaments. Reactor safety and fuel are important tasks at the HBWR research reactor.

6 .

1.and reactor physics is the flux and cross sections. To keep order of the different compositions.1 Nomenclature Atoms consist of a nucleus with a surrounding cloud of electrons. a chemical element is given subscripts. A chart with the different compositions of nuclei is given in a nuclide map. for thorium with 90 protons and 142 neutrons: 232 90 Th142 ⇐⇒ 232 Th ⇐⇒ Th-232. If the nucleus has a semi-stable excited state.1 A Short Nuclear Physics’ Primer 2. E. the positively charged proton and the neutral neutron. all the three expressions are equally good. neutrons (N) and nucleons (A) is typically given in one of these three expressions. the number of protons (Z).2. The flux is simply the number of particles passing through an unit area per unit time.Chapter 2 An Introduction to Nuclear Physics and Power Plants 2.1. Since Z is given by the name of the element.1. Nuclei with the same number of protons are called isotopes. 7 . For a given element.2 Flux and Cross Section Two important parameters in nuclear. An example given by the National Nuclear Data Center (NNDC) [14] is shown in Fig. then this is called an isomer state. The nucleus itself is made up of two types of nucleons.g. and N is given by A-Z. A Z XN ⇐⇒ A X ⇐⇒ X-A. nuclei with the same number of neutrons are called isotones and nuclei with the same number of nucleons called isobars. X. 2.

2. It is this property which makes it possible to harness energy by adding together(fusion) light nuclei. The average binding energy per nucleon is shown in Fig. An important property of the cross section is that it may depend heavily on the energies involved. 8 . a symmetry. Figure 2. this is a quantum mechanical quantity. The cross section.3 The Nucleus’ Mass The mass of a nucleus is given by the sum of its components. minus a binding energy.1) incoming particles per unit time × targets per unit area In a classical model the cross section would be the same as two objects projected area. σ.1: A nuclide chart as given by the National Nuclear Data Center [14]. In the 1930’s the German physicist Weizsäcker concluded that the binding energy could be given quite accurate using 5 correctional terms. is an expression of the likelihood of an interaction between two particles. A volume-. or splitting (fission) a heavy nuclei. a coulomb-. 2. It turns out that the average binding energy per nucleon is largest for elements in the neighbourhood of iron (A≈56).2. and has dimension of area: reactions per unit time σ= (2.1. but on the atomic scale and below.and a paring-term. a surface-.

4 Conservation of Energy (Q-value) The total energy of any reaction is always conserved.g.3) i f This is important in nuclear decay. the β was an electron (or it’s anti-particle.2: A graph of the average binding energy per nucleon for the different nuclei. is found: X X Q≡ Mi c2 − Mf c2 = Tf − Ti (2. Mf . By subtracting the mass of the particle(s) after the reaction from the mass of the particle(s) before the reaction. U-235 and Pu-239 is just below 200 MeV. beta(β) and gamma(γ) particles. Figure 2. being the energy gain or loss. The α particle turned out to be a helium nucleus. the positron). 2. The Q-value for fission of the nuclei U-233.1.and proton. the Q-value. in the form of electromagnetic waves or moving particles. 2. 9 . as a nucleus can only decay if the Q-value is positive. keeping in mind that E=mc2 : X X Ti + Mi c2 = Tf + Mf c2 (2. neutron.radiation. Other types of radiation is e.2) i f where Mi . with energies about two million times that of visible light. and the gamma were very high frequency photons.1. Historically radiation were grouped as alpha(α). Ti and Tf are the initial and final masses and kinetic energies of the nuclei involved in the reaction.5 Radiation Radiation is the emission of energy from an atom or any other subatomic particle. meaning that the sum of all the initial energies must equal the sum of all the final energies.

Of more than 3000 known isotopes1 ’only’ around 250 of these are stable.4) λ Radiation Poisoning and Protection Large amounts of radiation are dangerous. from billionths of a second. For decay to be possible the Q-value must have a positive value. Radioactive decay itself is a stochastic process where the number of nuclei of a given element which decays per unit time is proportional to the number of nuclei by a decay constant λ. b) Half-life for the nuclei [14].g.the dose equivalent.3: a) Main modes of decay. and the damage the absorbed radiation can cause. The time for a particular element to decay varies greatly.7 mSv. Absorbed radiation dose is measured in Gray (Gy)2 and is the energy absorbed in 1 kg of matter J m2 1Gy ≡ 1 =1 2.2. Figure 2. the allowed dose for a normal person is an additional 1 mSv/yr (on average over a 5-year period) [15]. (2. It is common to measure radioactive decay as the half-life of the elements: ln(2) t1/2 = .3. another measurement is used . Its toxicity is related to the amount of radiation that is absorbed in the body. The main mode of decay and their respective half-lives is given in Fig. In Norway. radiation protection agency’s. The dose equivalent is measured in Sievert (Sv). The rest will eventually decay until those as well becomes stable. (2. The different weighting factors can be found in textbooks and booklets from e. The annual radiation a human receives each year from background radiation is around 3. The type of radiation is given a weighing factor according to its biological effect it has.5) kg s Since some kinds of radiation are more dangerous than others. to billions of years. Personnel working in a radiating environment can be 1 in which around 340 occurs naturally on Earth 2 Other units for radiation are: rad = Gy/100 and rem = Sv/100. 10 .

Fission can be spontaneous or induced. rotations and vibrations) of the nu- cleus.1 for effects received from radiation poisoning [15]: 2.3a).6 Fission Nuclear fission is a reaction in which a nu- cleus is split. be high energy photons. If a nucleus fissions without any external in- fluence it is called spontaneous fission (SF). energy is released in the form of heat (kinetic energy of the fragments) and radiation. For heavy nuclei like uranium and plutonium the energy released by fis- sion is just below 200 MeV.(2.g. The Norwegian Radiation Protection Agency (NRPA) operates with the dosages given in 2. with the energy given by Eq.g. in addition to the fission fragments and free neutrons.3). and the few isotopes that undergo SF as their pri- mary mode of decay are heavy nuclei and lie close to the so-called neutron or proton driplines (marked as green in Fig. and at least two of its parts are of comparable size. When a nucleus gets excited this energy is put into deformation Figure 2.1: Effects of radiation [15].4: Induced fission [16] (e. given a clearance to receive a maximum dose of 20 mSv/yr. This is a rare event for most nuclei. This may e. Dose Effect 6 → Sv Small chances of survival 3-5 Sv 50 % chance of death 2 Sv Bone marrow failure 500 mSv Significant changes in the blood 150 mSv Temporary sterility in men Table 2. 11 . In nuclear reactors. Most fission reactions are induced. neutrons are the source of the induced fission.1. but most commonly reactions with other particles.2. It most often refers to the splitting of a heavy nucleus from which.

3% fertile U-238.g. uranium-235 and plutonium-239 (other elements like neptunium-237 and plutonium-241 are fissile as well. the Q-value for fission will be positive. the coulomb force will repel the two fragments . The percentage of nuclei that fission when hit by a thermal neutron must be high enough to sustain a chain reaction.2. In order to make nuclear bombs.e. compared to 0. Th-232 and U-238 go through the following processes after a neutron- 12 . So if the excitation energy is low. and go to its ground state. If the nucleus is stretched enough. and hence the deformation (r/R). is given in Fig.5. the distance between them (r) and the ra- dius of the two fragments (R). makes the nucleus stretch along its symme- try axis. In order to roll the way down it needs enough energy to roll over the saddle point. but are both rare. energy is needed to deform the nucleus. These two elements are much more abundant in nature than any fissile counterpart (e.the nucleus can fission. but after reaching a saddle point. and difficult to produce).7% fissile U-235. natural uranium consists of 99. the nucleus can still fission even if the energy is lower than that of the saddle point (which is also why some nuclei in their ground state can fission).6. i. A qualitative picture of the pro- cess is given in Fig. The two most important fertile elements with regards to nuclear power is uranium-238 and thorium-232. the nucleus will split up and a fission reac- tion will occur. Fertile Nuclei Fertile nuclei are not fissile themselves. If the excitation energy. Because of quantum tunnelling. Fissile Nuclei A fissile nucleus is defined as a nucleus capable of undergoing fission when hit by a neutron of any energy. is larger than the saddle point. The transmutation of fertile material to fissile material is called breeding. Figure 2.5: Deformation of the nucleus. a high concentration of fissile material is needed. cleus will send out a photon. fission can occur even if the kinetic energy of the incident neutron is negligible. An analogy to get the nucleus to fission would be to imagine trying to roll a ball down from the top. but can be transmuted thereto by absorption of a neutron (and the following decays). the nu. The energy that is put into rotation. There are three fissile elements suitable for power productions: uranium-233. The deformation can be described by its two centers of mass. A chart of some nuclei with their respective gained excitation energy received by the captured neutron. and the excitation energy needed for fission to occur.2. At first.

6) 21. and these play an important role in reactor control.98d 238 − − 92 U + n → 239 −−−→ 239 92 U − −−→ 239 93 N p + e + ν¯e − 94 P u + e + ν¯e . 2. Figure 2. a thorough understanding of the different reactions is necessary.2 Reactor Physics In a nuclear reactor the chain-reaction of fissions is being initiated and controlled. This is done by controlling the neutrons released in a fission.45m 2. (2. As these nuclear chain reactions only has a small margin of error before getting out of control. (2. Actually the neutrons which is released from a fission reaction have an average energy which is high enough to fission most fertile nuclei. capture: 232 − − 90 T h + n → 233 −−−→ 233 90 T h − 233 91 P a + e + ν¯e −−−→ 92 U + e + ν¯e . in order to reduce the probability of uncontrolled reactor failures. and making sure that each fission leads to exactly one new fission. 2.35d Fertile elements may still fission as long as the energy of the incident neutron is large enough. The concept of the a nuclear reactor is to keep the chain reactions of fissions going at a constant rate. Several safety measures have been installed in most of the worlds nuclear power plants during the years.2. It turns out that a small fraction of the neutrons released from a fission reaction are delayed.7) 23.1 Basic Criteria for Nuclear Fuel There are three criteria for nuclear fuel: 13 .6: Kinetic energy of neutrons in MeV needed for fission to occur [17].83m 26.

The neutron-to-proton ratio increases for heavier nuclei. since the process works on a much longer time scale (microseconds to minutes). will disintegrate by emitting a neutron. the two daughter-nuclei will be closer in size (more symmetric). In addition to the two fission fragments.2. The latter decay mode is very important when it comes to controlling the reactor. When a nucleus fissions it will split into two fragments. are called prompt neutrons [19]. the fragments tend to consist of one slightly lighter and one slightly heavier nucleus (Fig. If the kinetic energy of the inducing neutron is increased.7). 14 . The term fission fragments is used for the two parts immediately after the fission.7: Fission products from different fissile nuclei when induced by thermal neutrons [18]. the fragments are separated on a time scale of 10−17 s.Availability: The fuel has to be available in large enough amounts and concentrations suitable for extraction. so the fission fragments tend to be neutron rich. A small fraction however. After the fission process is started. gamma rays and free neutrons will be released as well. Most of the these will disintegrate by beta decay. while the term fission products is used for the two rest products in the aftermath.2. If thermal neutrons are used for induction. Sustain chain reaction: A nucleus fissioned in the fuel has to release enough neutrons so that at least one them induces a new fission in an other nucleus. or immediately there after. High cross section for fission (σf ): The fuel needs to have a sufficiently large cross section for fission when hit by neutrons. 2. The terms fission fragments and fission products are a bit hard to distinguish. The neutrons which are emitted in the fission reaction.2 Fission Products and Released Neutrons Figure 2.

from a fission reaction do not cause fission in other fissile nuclei. or sub critical. k. If k is below 1.10) 15 .115 2. ν.50 0.0065 Pu-239 0.9) number of neutrons in previous generation To keep the chain reaction stable.3. If k is larger than one. and the complementary graph showing the number of released neu- trons as a function of incident neutron en- ergy is given in Fig. number on neutrons in one generation k= (2. which means it is critical (balanced). In the case of thermal reactors. re- leased by a single fission is proportional to the kinetic energy of the incoming neutron. En : ν(En ) = ν0 + cE En . (2. The different coefficients for the three fissile nuclei (U-233.0021 Table 2. En for fissile nuclei. Figure 2. but gets absorbed in other elements.8) where cE is a coefficient related to the fissile element. Pu-239) is given in Tab. can be written as k = k∞ P = ηpf P.43 0. The neutron multiplication factor. Fraction of − Nucleus cE (MeV 1) ν0 delayed neutrons U-233 0. 2. and so will the temperature.2: Data for released neutrons after fission [19].90 0. k has to be one. (2.111 2. The average number of neutrons.2.8: ν vs.3 Neutron Balance So in order to keep a chain reaction going. then the chain reaction will eventually ”die out” unless another source of neutrons is provided. A relatively large fraction of the released neutrons. k. are examples of subcritical reactors. Accelerator driven systems.135 2.2.8. the number of reactions will increase exponentially. U-235.2. where the extra neutrons are added from an accelerated driven spallation. ν. The neutron multiplication factor. the neutrons can escape in several different reactions and stages before eventually inducing a new fission reaction. examined in section 2.0026 U-235 0. is the number of neutrons created from one fission that will lead to another fission. there must at least an equal number of neutrons created at a given time interval as there was during the previous time interval.2. Several safety measures are installed in today’s power plants to prevent k from exceeding 1 uncontrolled.2.

where η: is the number of fission neutrons produced per neutron absorbed in the fuel. When the neutrons reach temperatures in what is called the resonance area of the non-fissile fuel (U-238. η for U-233. for Th-2323 .13) Number of fast neutrons that starts to slow down 16 .9: The rightmost graph shows the fissile cross section. Pu-240. is defined by: Number of neutrons that reach thermal energy p= . for thermal and epithermal En . σf . where the the nucleus de-excites by gamma decay.2.2. The leftmost graph shows the absorption cross section. p: is the resonance escape probability. p. 232). etc. The probability that this absorption happens. this could be fission of Th-232 or other elements present in the fuel like U-236. other reactions than fission are possible.12) Number of fast neutrons generated by thermal fission This term comes from the fact that the fast neutrons released after fission have a probability of causing fission in other nuclei than the fissile fuel. σnγ .Figure 2. (The leftmost graph in Fig.γ) reactions. For normal uranium fuelled reactors. (2. In reactors using thorium or a mixed fuel.9 shows the resonance area for Th.10 σf η=ν . Th-232 etc) they have a higher probability of being absorbed. [20]. mainly (n. Pu-239. for U-233. When the fissile element absorbs a neutron. (2. U-235 and Pu-239 are given in Fig. and is defined by: Number of fast neutrons generated in a nuclear reactor by all fissions = (2. this would normally mean fission of U-238.11) σa : is the fast fission factor. U-235.

the other factors depend on the reactor construction. Delayed neutrons The time period in which the prompt neutrons operate are very small. The first four factors (ηpf) make up k∞ .f: is the thermal utilization factor. which indicates how the reactor would work if no neutrons escaped from the reactor (e. η for respectively U-233. Figure 2.14) Σa P: is the non-leakage probability. Because of the time-scale this can lead to a rapid exponential growth of fissions if a reactor goes prompt supercritical.4 Criticality and Delayed Neutrons Prompt Criticality Prompt criticality means that for each fission. if it was infinite large). Some of the neutrons will escape from the reactor. 2. U-235 and Pu-239 [20]. (2.10: η vs En for the fissile nuclei U-233.g. and not somewhere else: ΣaF issile f= . make up this factor.2. While η just depends on the energy of the incident neutron.10 [20]. U-235 and Pu-239 is shown in Fig.2. And since the growth or reduction is exponential. a released prompt neutron will cause a new fission. In fast reactors this time-window is even smaller because the neutron lifetime is so much shorter. controlling a reactor with only prompt neutrons would 17 . This is the probability that an absorbed neutron has been absorbed in the fuel. Those who do not.

• Availability / Economics. This is done by transfer of momentum and kinetic energy. To prevent the neutrons from escaping or reacting in other unwanted reactions while they are being slowed down. is given by: (k − 1) ρ= . • High scattering cross section. and thus reach an energy/temperature where the probability of absorption by the fissile material is higher. it appears to be emitted with the half life of the precursor nucleus. If however the excited state is above a certain element depending threshold then a neutron-decay is possible.2. In fast reactors. ρ. whereas a 4 The origin of delayed neutrons has to do with the energy involved in the beta-decay of the precursor nuclei. k. which is how it reduces the neutrons kinetic energy.15) where β is the fraction of delayed neutrons. • Good chemical properties. The reactivity. How much energy is transferred to the moderator (which equals the energy lost from the neutron) depends on the mass of the moderator. moderators are excluded. This time delay is important when it comes to controlling the reactor.5 Moderator The majority of today’s reactors use a thermal neutron spectrum. (2. A good moderator should have the following properties: • Low neutron absorption cross section. Criticality when delayed neutrons are involved The neutron multiplication factor. can be written as a sum of prompt neutrons and delayed neutrons: k = (1 − β)k + βk. A moderator is then needed to slow down the fission neutrons. The first property is quite obvious . then they can not be used to induce fission in the fissile fuel. When a neutron rich nucleus beta-decays it might be left in an excited state.If the neutrons are absorbed in the moderator.16) k very difficult. However. 18 . A prompt critical reactor has (1 − β)k = 1 → β = k−1 k . Since the time-scale of the neutron decay is very short as compared to the half-life of the precursor nucleus. it should have a large probability for scattering. a good moderator should make the neutrons need as few collisions as possible before thermal energy is reached. A small fraction of the released neutrons from a fission reaction are delayed4 . (2. • Small mass. Normally the nuclei would fall to its ground state through a subsequent gamma decay. A heavy nucleus tends to just bounce the neutron back with almost no energy transfer.

They are made of neutron absorbing materials. where the hydrogen is made up of a single proton (1 H). thus transporting the heat away more efficiently. Hydrogen could be used in the form H2 . which can cause problems (lead (Pb). The extra neutron in the hydrogen atom. But hydrogen makes up a good portion of water. has good cooling properties). Optimally one would prefer to have a particle of the same size. The control rods can be lowered or raised. PWR). making it heavier.g. 19 . This is done in a two-circuit loop (e. In fact ordinary water (light water) is the most common moderator in today’s power plants. excluding it from being a candidate. but has the feature of very low neutron absorption. If the void coefficient is positive then the reaction rate increases with the temperature. Beryllium has been used in experimental reactors. But hydrogen gas is very reactive and has a low density. Boron is a common element used in control rods in both BWR and PWR reactors. Water is also a good coolant.7 Control Rods Control rods are used for controlling the neutron flux. 2. If the void coefficient is negative on the other hand. The coolant should also be chemically inert to avoid corrosion and other reactions within the reactor.6 Coolant The coolant is responsible for transferring the heat away from the reactor. could be used in the form of heavy water (D2 O).2.2. Differing in mass by only 0. the heavier hydrogen isotope. A third type of moderator in commercial use is solid graphite (carbon). From this angle hydrogen would seem as a very good moderator. BWR) or in a three-circuit loop (e. in the reactor. Keeping the void coefficient negative is an important passive safety feature. The Chernobyl reactor had a positive void coefficient. 2.g. which is considered in ADS and the 4th generation LFR. thus affecting the criticality in the reactor. pressurized water reactors. Instead of using ordinary water. boiling water reactors.lighter one transfers more energy. will not slow down the neutrons as efficiently on impact.14%. the proton is ideal for absorbing kinetic energy. thus avoiding local cold spots (slugs). which most of today’s reactors have. H2 O. Another good property for the coolant is a low melting point.8 Void Coefficient The void coefficient is a measure of how the reactor reacts when steam bubbles (voids) appear in the coolant or the moderator. A heavy water moderator is used at the Norwegian reactors at Kjeller and Halden. Coolants should have a high heat capacity and low viscosity. Φ. deuterium (2 H or D).2. the reaction rate will decrease with increasing temperature. 2.

For breeding purposes fast reactors are superior as the neutron yield. But by using thorium fuel (consists of the fertile Th-232 and bred U-233) which has a high neutron yield even at thermal energies. 20 . i. Almost all of today’s commercial reactors are thermal (434 of 436) [10]. (Figure from Wikipedia.) 2.3 Nuclear Power Plants The basic principle behind a nuclear power plant is the same as a coal-fired or oil-fired power plant: To heat up water to steam which drives a turbine connected to a electricity generator. is higher.11 Figure 2. breeding can be done in thermal reactors. They are classified by the neutron-energy which the reactor operates. The difference lies in the way the water is heated.2. at which energy (the majority of) the neutrons are absorbed. η.2.3.e. The basic principles is given in Fig.1 Types of Reactors Nuclear power plants can be divided into two groups according to their reactor technology: Fast reactors and thermal reactors.11: Scheme of a nuclear power plant.

breed new fissile material to some degree.and weapons.330 ◦ C. Since the amount of fertile U-238 is a hundred times larger than that of the fissile U-235. Because PWR uses light water.2. Fast Reactors As mentioned previously.12: Concept of a pressurized water reactor Other types of thermal reac. In thermal reactors only Th-232 is suitable as a fuel for breeding (as can be seen in Fig.g. coolants. The Q-value for neutron capture for the actinide elements is around 4-6 MeV. All reactors. In order to breed plutonium. different moderators. the difference in design between these classes can be quite large (e.. With the kinetic energy of the fast neutrons 21 .2. Firstly. Gas-Cooled Reactors (GCR). a fissile isotope is defined as a nucleus which can fission when hit by a thermal neutron. the concen- tration of fissile material has to be increased. which absorbs neutrons. and will be given a short description: PWR uses light water as both coolant and moderator. By using high pressure of about 160 bars the water do not boil [21]. While natural ura- nium has about 0.7% fissile mate- rial. A breeder reactor is defined as a reactor which breeds more fuel than it burns. As the names might reveal. the neutrons are not slowed down in fast reactors. for mod- eration and cooling. The most common one is the Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR). The European pressurized reactor is a generation 3+ PWR.Thermal Reactors As of June 2009 there are five different classes of thermal reactors in operation. as can be seen in Fig. as long the fuel contains fertile material. this creates up a huge potential source for new nuclear fuel . The heat is transferred through heat exchangers to a secondary loop where water is heated to steam which drives the turbine.1.. This is again connected to a third loop bringing in water from a river or another cool water source. PWR needs around 2-3% [19]. Figure 2. Light Water cooled Graphite moderated Reactors (LWGR) and Boiling Water Reactor (BWR). The second advantage of using fast neutrons is that they can cause fission in more than just the fissile material.(PWR). This makes the breeding of new fissile material more efficient. tors are: Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR).6.12. By operating in the high energy neutron spectrum three advantages arise. As mentioned in section 2. PWR uses a 3-loop configuration. the number of neutrons released per fission is larger. system design). contributing with 60% of the total share. a fast reactor is needed. In the reactor the temperature of the coolant water is heated to 320 .10).

This imply that a higher part of the fertile isotopes like Th-232 and U-238 can be fissioned directly.2. Figure 2.2 Future reactors The future of nuclear power will rely more on international cooperation.included. 22 . but just as interesting is the opportunity to fission other unwanted elements.13: Concept of a fast breeder reactor (FBR). The latter envisioned up towards 48% against today’s average of around 31-33%. this increases the Q-value so that fission becomes a competitive mode of decay for a great many more isotopes. meaning that the physical size of the reactor can be reduced. which is around 2 MeV. Several of the proposed designs will have a closed fuel cycle and actinide burn-up capability and all will have an increased burn-up of fertile material. Drawing by [22]. both fuel vice and thermal-to-electric. Fast reactors also operates with a higher power density. One concept of a fast reactor is given below in Fig. Smaller size means reduction of construction time and investments. 2. The high out- let temperature opens for thermochemical production of hydrogen in some of the suggested reactor-designs.13. Common for the next generation reactors are higher temperatures and higher efficiency.3. like nuclear waste.

This allows burn- up of unwanted nuclear waste. The high neutron flux also increases the probability of neutron capture. is low for fast neutrons so the flux. and receives the remaining part needed to reach criticality from a spallation source.Accelerator Driven Systems The concept of Accelerator Driven Systems (ADS) is to use an external neutron source to run a subcritical reactor. The ADS vessel will be high and fairly narrow.g. and fission. 23 . This will enable a natural circulation of the coolant. Control rods are absent in ADS. The spallation is caused by a high intensity particle beam provided by a particle accelerator. e. σf . Φ. like minor actinides (MA) and fission products (FP). The cross section for both capture. The subcritical reactor has a neutron multiplication number kef f < 1. The ADS is a fast reactor.14: Concept of accelerator driven systems (ADS). meaning that it does not have a moderator. Instead the reactivity is controlled through the beam power. deuterons is in many way a better particle regarding the number of neutrons released in the spallation source. e. This gives a much faster response time.g. σnγ . needs to be much higher in fast reactors than in thermal reactors. 5 In principle any ion could be used. thus reducing the importance of the pumps. Figure 2. The production of deuterons are however expensive compared to protons (which only needs to ionize ordinary hydrogen). The fast neutron spectrum makes it ideal for transmutation of actinides and burning of plutonium. lead (Pb) or lead-bismuth (Pb/Bi). The particle beam consists of protons5 with an energy of 500 to 1000 MeV.

24 .

An often used model is the logistic model which expresses the consumption rate. Q. Q0 [Q∞ − Q0 ] Here P0 is the initial consumption rate. occurs at the time when half of 25 . as a function of the spent resource. From this equation it is easy to see that P has a parabolic Figure 3. the peak at Q = Q∞ /2. Q0 .1. value. given at time t0 for the model. Pmax = Q4β∞ is reached The maximum value of P. The other initial condition.Q(t)). times the amount of resource left. Q(t) [19]: dQ P (t) ≡ dt (3. and the boundary condition. The nu- merator of Eq.1) Q(t)[Q∞ − Q(t)] = P0 .3.(3. Q(t).1: Consumption. Q∞ .1) is the amount of re- source. The denominator part is the product at the start (t = t0 ). source.1 Mathematical Model for Consumption of Finite Resources It is useful to have a mathematical model for the consumption of a finite resource. spent at time t. P(t). is the amount of the resource which has been consumed at t0 and the total amount of the resource.Chapter 3 Evaluation of Resources and Fuel 3. (Q∞ . The maximum rate. respectively. P as function of used re- dependence of Q as shown in Fig.

2) 2 Putting this value for Q into Eq. β → (Q0 /P0 ) and only depends on the initial conditions. (3. 4β where β is an often used reduction of the initial/boundary conditions.1).(3.1) gives us: Q2∞ Pmax = P (tm ) = P0 4Q0 [Q∞ − Q0 ] (3.(3. If the latter is large. (3. or derivation of Eq.5) 1 + Ae−t/β where A is an integration constant given by: Q∞ − Q0 A= Q0 (3. (Q(t)/Q∞ ) which gives the time it takes to reach this fraction:   Q(t)/Q∞ t = βln A .(3.5): 2 e−t/β  Q∞ P (t) = P0 . Adding Time Q(t) can be found by integrating Eq. is found by insertion in Eq.3) Q∞ = .4) Q0 (Q∞ /Q0 ) − 1 = P0 Q∞ /Q0 The last expression is in terms of the ratios (Q0 /P0 ) and (Q∞ /Q0 ). while Pmax → ¼P0 (Q∞ /Q0 ).(3.1) (setting t0 = 0): Q∞ Q(t) = .7) Q0 (1 + Ae−t/β )2 The time it takes before a certain amount of resource is spent can now by found using Q(t) as a fraction of Q∞ .(3. Q0 The consumption as a function of time.6) Q∞ = − 1.8) 1 − Q(t)/Q∞ 26 . P(t). (3. defined as: Q0 (Q∞ − Q0 ) β= Q P  ∞ 0  (3.1): Q∞ Q(tm ) = (3. Notice that Pmax increases monotonically with (Q∞ /Q0 ). (Q∞ /Q0 )  1 .the known resource is spent (confirmed by derivation of Eq.

but the total amount of which is extractable. (3.. the new model will be given by: Q∗∞ Q(t > t1) = . When the new resource is found.(3. being the initial and boundary conditions. the new Q1 will be: Q∞ Q1 = .5) and Eq. called Q∗∞ . A better way would be to use the previous model for the past until the new resource is found. as has been done here. Given new Q∞ . A more thorough guide and some examples of how to expand the model is given in this section. The total resource. (3. a new model has to to made: Since Q(t) and P(t) can be found at any given time by Eq. and P0 ) unchanged.9)   1 Q∞ = ln(A). . What about Q∞ The formulas given in the start of the chapter are good if we know all the numbers. The consumption and spent resource at a given time are easily obtained data.or to be correct estimated to be extractable.12) 1 + A1 e−(t−t1)/β1 If the time is not reset at the new starting point then. A new Q∞ can not simply be put into the old model with the other initial conditions (Q0 . at time t1 . the model has to be adjusted. t has to be changed to (t-t1 ). new technology can improve the extraction ratio.10) 1 + Ae−t1 /β and P will be 2 e−t1 /β  Q∞ P1 = P 0 . we use this data as a new reference point. can then be found by setting Q(tm ) equal to Q∞ /2 as given in Eq.The time it takes before consumption peaks. (3. It is worth to know that a resource is not the total amount of e.11) Q0 (1 + Ae−t1 /β )2 After the new resource has been found. etc. as this would change the data from before the extra resources were found. 4 Pmax Q0 Thus tm decreases with increasing Pmax and tm → P0 ln(A) when (Q∞ /Q0 )  1.13) Q1 (1 + A1 e−(t−t1)/β1 )2 27 .2). The new P(t) will be:  ∗ 2 Q∞ e−(t−t1)/β1 P (t > t1) = P1 ..(3.(3. at time t1 .7) and the new Q∞ is estimated at the time t.g. Q∞ . uranium- atoms/molecules/mineral etc. however is more difficult to predict. Increasing Q∞ When more resources is found. giving: tm = βln(A) (3. New resources can be found. so that Q∞ increases. (3.

and spent resource. after (upper right graph) and as (lower graph) it has reached its maximum. P(t). Figure 3.(3. with the original initial conditions in blue. Q(t).2: Consumption.where the new β1 and A1 is found by using the new starting conditions in Eq.4). P(t). for a certain resource has already peaked and has started to decline. would look like.Returning to Consumption Peak As a case study an we can examine an interesting scenario: Let us say that the consumption. This figure shows how the consumption evolves when the new resource is taking into account before (upper left graph).(3. First the new initial conditions is found by 28 . Case Study . then we can compare the current consumption towards the peak consumptions. The red dotted line marks how a wrong model. Q0 and the new Q∞ . using P0 . How much new resources is then needed to get a new consumption peak with as least the same value as the previous? That is: How large will the new Q∞ need to be? If we have reached the consumption peak and are on a declining path.6) and Eq. and the new model after a new resource (Qnew ∞ ) is found at a time t1 in green.

Since the consumption has passed its peak the value for the new initial point is found by adding the square root of Eq.19) 2 Plotting for some different scenarios gives us the graphs shown in Fig. The graphs clearly shows that the amount of new resources needed to get the consumption rate back the the previous peak. Q becomes: 1 Q∞ Q(t)[Q∞ − Q(t)] p = P0 4 β Q [Q − Q ]  0 ∞ 0 (3.3. As can be seen from the different scenarios the new amount of resources needed to get the consumption rate back to the same value as an earlier peak (Pmax ) gets big quite fast.(3. Q∗∞ we get: r 2 Q1 Q∞ Q1 Q∞ Q2 Q P 1 β0 + P1 β0 − 4 P11 β∞ 0 Q∗∞ = (3.(3.18) 4β1 β0 where β1 and β0 represent the new and old β’s for the model. Q∞ .17) 2 By finding the spent resource according to the consumption rate as a fraction of the peak.3. can be found by setting the new Pmax equal to the previous using the new conditions: Q∗∞ Q∞ = (3. β Q∞ and by setting up as a 2nd degree equation. Solving on behalf of the new resource roof.15): p Q∞ + Q∞ (1 − p) Q1 = (3. Q becomes: Q∞2 Q2 − Q∞Q + p=0 4 p Q∞ ± Q2∞ − Q2∞ p Q= (3.14) 4 Q0 (Q∞ − Q0 ) 1 Q∞ = p 4 β By putting this into Eq. the needed new resource roof. and using β. which could be both when P(t) is increasing and decreasing. of the peak value: P = Pmax p 1 Q2∞ = P0 p (3.1).(3.setting P equal to a fraction. It is therefore important how to estimate and interpret the amount of a resource ( Q∞ ).15) 1 Q = 1− Q.15) gives the value of Q(t) when P(t) is at the given value. p ∈ (0. grows rapid as time passes by.1]. 29 .16) p 2 Q∞ ± Q∞ (1 − p) Q= 2 Eq.

increase and decrease in the consumption 30 . but as can be seen the actual rate of consumption started to diverge from the model around 1980. King Hubberts Model for Consumption of Oil The model was first described in detail and published in 1956 by M. King Hubbert [23] and was used to estimate remaining oil re- serves.Figure 3. 50% and 30% of Pmax .1 Use and Interpretation of the Model M. P = 82%. As can be seen from Fig. Economical and log- ical arguments could explain why a rapid Figure 3.3: Graphs for different starting time for discovery of a new resource.4: Oil depletion curve.4. 70%. 3. having been used by Hubbert in the previous two decades the model gives a very good picture of the rate of consumption until the P(t) reaches about 70% of Pmax . The four graphs represents new resources found at. from upper left to lower right. This model estimated the peak-oil to come just before year 2000.3.1.

5. only it is time shifted by amount ∆t[23]. Figure 3. as shown in Fig 3. while for three different scenarios.5: Rate of discovery vs. rate of consumption It turns out that a clever way estimate Q∞ can be found by examining the rate of discovery for new resources. and not yet been consumed.6: A consumption model for uranium using prize of the resource (fuel). consumption and the proved reserves . It may how- ever give a rough estimate for the fu- ture. with a constant consumption rate from the time P(t) reached about 55% of the models Pmax [23]. This rate follows the exact same curve. it is based on only three initial conditions. gas and coal rely heavy on the availability and Figure 3. It should be noted that Hubbert. Rate of discovery vs. in his paper suggested an alternative curve. For the situation with fossil fuel the predictions have compared remark- ably well with extracted quantities [24] The situation for the nuclear power however is another. First of all it is important to recognize that the costs of producing energy from oil. the nuclear option the total expenses 31 . and as mentioned.rate would be unfavourable.that is what has been discovered. Using the Model for Nuclear Fuel This is a pure mathematical model.

but it was first classified as a chemical element in 1789. It was sent to Jöns Jakob Berzelius.0381 u (244) u 3 Density (300K): 18. and a parameter for rate of expansion would replace P(t). Then the maximum consumption Pm ax is the equivalent to former Q∞ . only the latter is practical as a fuel in breeder reactors. Both U-234 and U-238 are fertile.relies not as much much on the uranium fuel (in today’s reactors).1: Data for uranium. but may be produced from thorium in reactors. Esmark in Lange- sundfjorden in Norway [26].2. [14]. But if more effort is put into the nuclear option in the future this model may at least give a picture of the different alternatives concerning fuel and recycling. namely: U-234 (0.029 u 232.5 billion y (U-238) 14 290 y (Pu-241) 80 million y (Pu-244) Table 3.2 Nuclear Resources 3. 32 . recycling of spent fuel will be crucial.Thr.2742%).0054%). but rather on its capital costs. From the graph it is seen that if nuclear fission as a energy source is to play a role in the long-term.95 g/cm 11. U-233 does not appear naturally.72 g/cm3 19. There are three different natural-occurring uranium isotopes. The use of uranium dates back to Roman times. but being almost 20000 times more abundant. a Swedish chemist who 1 In fact U-235 is the only fissile isotope found in reasonable amounts in nature.[25]. when it was used to add yellow colour to ceramic glazes. U-235 (0.1 Fissile Elements Uranium Thorium Plutonium Chemical symbol U Th Pu Atomic number: 92 90 94 Atomic weight: 238. Of these. Use on renewable resources The same model can be used for the expansion of renewable resources.84 g/cm3 Melting point: 1135 ◦ C 1755 ◦ C 640 ◦ C Boiling point: 4134 ◦ C 4787 ◦ C 3232 ◦ C Half-life(s): 159 000 y (U-233) 14 billion y (Th-232) 24 110 y (Pu-239) 704 million y (U-235) 6 561 y (Pu-240) 4. thorium and plutonium. Still the model gave a good picture of the situation until the 1980’s when reasons other than that of the availability of uranium flattened the increase in the sector.7204%) and U-238 (99. 3. Thorium was discovered in 1823 by amateur mineralogist M. U- 235 is the only fissile isotope1 . Uranium is the heaviest natural-occurring element.

Pu-239.7. The isotope that makes up almost all of the natural thorium is Th-232. Nuclear Properties of Thorium-232 and Uranium-233 The following quotation was given in the 2005 IAEA report: Thorium fuel cycle . Keeping η above 2 is essential in breeding. σnγ .Potential benefits and challenges”[29]: ”233 U is by far the best ’fissile’ isotope for thermal neutron spectrum and can be used for breeding in both thermal and fast reactors. for U-233. in 1829 analysed it and named it after Thor. even though the resonance spectrum of U-238 is three times bigger than that of Th-232. as for every fission one neutron has to hit another fissile nuclei.7 shows that U-233 has much better neutron yield in the thermal energy spectrum than its two counterparts.” And indeed the nuclear characteristics of Th-232 and U-233 are good. η.7: Left: Neutron capture cross section σnγ of thermal Th-232 and U-238 [20].3. Seaborg. and Arthur C. which historically has been its main area of use. It is capable of becoming a fissile nuclide (U-233) through neutron-capture Plutonium was first produced and detected in 1941 by Glenn T. This makes the breeding process of Th-232 → U-233 more efficient than the U-238 → Pu-239. Plutonium is a very potent material for nuclear weapons. The fissile Pu- 239 isotope is made in nuclear reactors by neutron capture in U-238. which is a fertile nuclide. the Norse God of thunder [27].Figure 3. Kennedy. with η above 2 for a wide range of the neutron energy spectrum. Plutonium has and will play an important role as nuclear fuel in breeder reactors.3. The right graph of Fig. thus keeping the chain reaction going. Right: Neutrons released. as can be seen in the left graph of Fig. 33 . Wahl by bombarding U-238 with deuterons [28]. U-235. Th-232 has a higher cross section for neutron capture. The fissile U-233 has a very good neutron yield when it absorbs neutrons. compared to that of U-238. Joseph W. First of all. U-235 and Pu-239.

2: Capture and fission cross sections for U-233. 40 times more abundant than silver and even more abundant than tin [30]. depending on the extraction costs. Figure 3.2. Classifications There is a big difference in the amount of a resource present in the Earth’s crust and that which is suitable for extraction. This is twice as efficient as for U-235 and four times as efficient as for Pu-239. This is also the case for uranium.2 [29]. so will the effort to find other alternatives. making it 500 times more abundant than gold. U-235. thus keeping the fissile fuel constant or increasing. The terminology used by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is given in Fig. making it better from a recycling point of view as well. and expected future discoveries.8: Different classifications of resources [31].8. For U-233 this means that one in every eleventh thermal neutron absorbed will lead to a heavier isotope instead of fission. The vast majority of minerals are in such low concen- trations that profitable extraction is unlikely.2 Uranium Resources Uranium makes up approximately 2 parts per million (ppm) in the Earth’s crust.3. and at least one other neutron to be absorbed in a fertile nuclei. 3.3. The capture and fission cross section for thermal energies is given in Tab. As a resource becomes more scarce and the cost involved in getting new supplies increases. Instead of putting an absolute number on the future resources. 34 . and Pu-239 for thermal energies. analysts rather divide the resources into groups. Isotope σnγ (Capture) σf (Fission) U-233 46 b 525 b U-235 101 b 577 b Pu-239 271 b 742 b Table 3.

9 gives a good look at different 35 . built up prior to 1990. while the supply was 67 000 tonnes. Annual production in 2008 was 42 000 tonnes. Fig. which is mainly due to the arms race during the cold war.3 million tonnes uranium. there has as of 2006 been extracted 2. This re- sulted in the first peak around 1960 (as seen in Fig. is needed if production is to equal demand. This paper uses the latest (2006) NEA/IAEA terminology. The current produc- tion is about two thirds that of the annual fuel demand. The resources can be developed to a reserve (or deposit) when further investigations prove that the enrichment can be economically exploitable. The difference between a resource and a reserve as given in the Thorium Report is [21]: ”A resource refers to a situation where metals or minerals are enriched.3. we here give a quick look at its global re- sources. which has used data from the jointly IAEA/NEA ’Red Book’. the annual produc- tion has had a slight increase the last years.9: Produced. During the first decades after the second world war the uranium production was strongly driven by military use [31]. After a fall in production around 1990. This also implies that the metal or the mineral can be recovered using a viable process. which Figure 3. The rest of the de- mand comes from earlier stock- piles.” Current and Future Uranium Extraction As commercial reactors today are almost solely being fueled by uranium.3.9). The reference scenario given by the World Energy Outlook (WEO) in 2006 estimated an increase in fuel demand by around 15% by 2030. RAR and IR of uranium. According to the En- ergy Watch Group [31]. even if the capacity is kept constant. Fuel de- means that a significant increase mand and projections [31].

By June 2009.1% and two thirds only have concentrations below 0.10: Produced and remaining uranium by country. In 2006 the Canadian Cigar Lake uranium mine was flooded. as can be seen in Fig 3. From the same figure it is seen that several countries have already fully exploited their national uranium resources. Canada has the largest reserves of cheap uranium (below 40 $/kgU). the latter being the second largest producer of nuclear power in the world. When the program is ended in 2013.S. and furthermore inferred resources estimates a peak in production around 2035. It should however be noted that the uranium and plutonium used in these weapons 36 .scenarios. Figure 3. Together with Australia and Kazakhstan. sites with the highest ore content are mined out first. 500 tonnes of Russian HEU will have been converted to nuclear fuel. In 2000 the same two countries agreed to dispose of 34 tonnes of weapons grade plu- tonium. which is equivalent to around 100000 tonnes of natural uranium. reasonably assured resources. Uranium from Decommissioned Nuclear Weapons In 1993 the U. the so-called ”Megawatts for Megatons” project.10. This amount is enough to cover the global fuel demand for two full years.06% [31]. and Russia agreed on a program to convert highly enriched uranium (HEU) from nuclear warheads to low enriched uranium (LEU) usable as nuclear fuel. The one including the costlier. more than 14000 warheads had been dismantled [32]. Most countries only have mines with an ore grade below 0. had it still been operational. including Germany and France. Today only Canada have reasonable amounts of high ore-grade (larger than 1%). The Cigar Lake mine would have been the second largest high grade uranium producing mine in the world. and has yet to be reopened. Logically. 367 tonnes of weapons grade uranium (HEU) had been converted to 10621 tonnes of LEU. This is either to be immobilized or to be used as MOX-fuel (Mixed OXide fuel) [33].

In.4 mil- lion tonnes and an additional 1.3 ppb = 3. of which monazite is the most important. Monazite is a phosphate containing rare earth elements. Thorium is found in many minerals. Phosphates According to the World Nuclear Organization (WNA) there are 22 million tonnes of uranium in phosphate deposits [35]. which is about 4-6 time more abundant than uranium. this uranium can be extracted as a by-product from the phosphate needed in agriculture.3 ppb2 . 2 ppb = Parts Per Billion. The Norwegian numbers are additional 132000 tonnes for both RAR and IR. with an average concentration of 10 ppm in the Earth’s crust [29].rium.23 million and 2. The technology has only been tested on a laboratory scale. Including the reasonably assured resources (RAR) and inferred re- sources (IR) will add another 2. (3. The Figure 3. According to the Analytical Center for Non-proliferation [34].2 million tonnes of reserve base (resources).13 million tonnes respectably [29]. with two thirds of the worlds resource situated in India. how- ever. Global reserves is estimated at 1. Unconventional Resources Seawater An estimated 4 billion tonnes of uranium is found in seawater.11: Global reserves and resources of tho- largest reserves are found in Australia. very low: 3. Although in a low concentration (estimated at 100ppm). the cost of extracting uranium directly from seawater would be between five and ten times that of land based uranium mining (as of 2004). The current thorium production is limited. roughly two thousand times the amount of produced uranium as of today. dia and Norway.are not a new source of uranium as they are already included in the data for the extracted resource.3 Thorium Resources Thorium is a fairly abundant element. being almost entirely a by-product from extraction of rare earth elements (REE) in monozite sand. 37 .3 grams of uranium per m3 of water). The concentration is.2. 3.

a breeder reactor. The fuel is a mixture of fissile and fertile nucleus. which can then undergo fission. In a power-production view it is the fissile isotopes which are interesting.3.3. 3 fertile nuclei will breed to a fissile nuclei. as it is the fission of these nuclei that generates power. Figure 3. The amount of fertile uranium compared to fissile is large (100 to 1) and thorium is almost in its entirety made up of fertile Th-232. 38 . For every fission. 2. 4.4 Qualitative Picture of Nuclear Fuel Resources To give a picture of the total resources of nuclear fuel we have to divide between fissile fuel (available) and fertile (potential) fuel. Fig. 3. If for each fission. For every 10 fissions.2. one fertile nucleus breeds into a fissile nucleus. The amount of the fissile material available is thus limited to its original quantity. each with different amount of breeding: 1. more than one fertile nucleus converts to a fissile nucleus. As explained earlier the fertile isotopes can themselves become fissile by capturing a neutron and the process of converting fertile elements to fissile elements is called breeding. the result will be a reactor that makes more fuel than it uses .12: The amounts of fissile and fertile elements and fission products. No breeding of new fuel. With this scenario the the amount of fissile material remains the same.12 shows four alternatives for use of fuels.

If. In reactors using natural uranium (e. and indeed a small fraction of the uranium extracted is from tailings formed from previous mining. Figure 3.3 Nuclear Fuel 3. also called a once-through cycle. These often have rich concentrations of other minerals though. From the process. is in a dry powder form.13: Uranium open fuel Conversion cycle. on the other hand.g. treated as radioactive waste. which is suitable for enrichment processes. large piles of uranium-poor tailings are formed. a conversion to UF6 is needed first. CANDU reactors). The uranium found in the ore is in the form of differ- ent uranium oxides. Uranium comes in several different chemical forms. The extracted uranium. called yel- lowcake. In an open fuel cycle. UF6 is converted to UO2 .05% (500ppm). After the enrichment process. Mining The mining of uranium does not differ much from that of ordinary mining of minerals and is extracted both from open pits and underground sites using conventional meth- ods. consisting of around 70-90% U3 O8 . the uranium oxides can be directly converted to UO2 . 39 . The uranium hexafluoride is changed to a gaseous form at 57 ◦ C. This works both ways. the uranium only makes up a small part of the extracted ore. As common with mineral mining. There is two kinds of uranium conversion. the uranium needs to be enriched. Uranium dioxide (UO2 ) has good chemical properties and is the preferred form for nuclear fuel.3. and then extracts the uranium through chemical leaching. the fuel is used once in the reactor and then stored away. Ore Processing The ore is processed at a mill which grinds the ore to a uni- form particle size.1 The Open Fuel Cycle (Once-Through) for Uranium The uranium goes through a range of different stages from it is extracted at a mine until it ends up as spent fuel. in which UO2 and U3 O8 are the most common. suitable for extraction in the future.3. Uranium ore is usually defined as a mineral with uranium-concentrations higher than 0. That to UO2 and that to UF6 .

72% found in natural uranium. thus separating the heavier molecules. Ohio. Just as gaseous diffusion needs several stages. (3. Piketon. hence the same energy.0173 As can be seen from Eq.21) = 1. Two common methods are gaseous diffu- sion and use of gas centrifugation. The U- 235 and U-238 isotopes contained in the UF6 must be separated. Picture from ciple. the gas can leak through a mem- brane. which will gather towards the center.21).Figure 3. The idea behind gaseous diffusion is to use this prin. will have a higher velocity than its heav- ier counterpart. from the lighter ones. The normal concentration in PWR’s lies somewhere between 2-5% 3 Fluorine consists of 100% F-19 isotopes.Enrichment The larger part of today’s reactors need a higher concentration of the fissile U-235 isotope than the 0. 40 . This means that lighter molecules.(3. Since the lighter molecules are travelling faster they will hit the membrane more often. In enrichment plants using this technology. and yields higher concentrations of U-235. several thousand diffusers are connected in a cascade.14: Caskade of gas centrifuges. being the UF6 containing U-2353 . The rate of effusion (diffusion to outside of container) is: 1 Effusion ∝ 2 . The enrichment grade is specified by the customer and depends on which application the fuel is intended for. many stages of diffusers are needed to reach wanted en- richment levels. The energy put into the gas centrifuge is however smaller. Being otherwise enclosed. A newer technique uses a gas centrifuges which separates the two isotopes by using the principle of centripetal acceleration. All the molecules have the same temperature (on average).20) m making the difference between the UF6 containing U-235 and U-238: 235 Effusion U m(235 U F6 )2 238 = Effusion U m(236 U F6 )2 (3. thus making the gas on the other side slightly more enriched with U-235. so does the gas centrifuges. which will gather towards the edges.

g. La Hague in France and Sellafield in the U. both natural and enriched fuel is eventually converted to uranium dioxide (UO2 ).. The fuel rods themselves are grouped into assemblies with between 100 and 200 fuel rods per fuel assembly4 . Through high temperature and high pressure the UO2 is made into hard small pellets. are refuelled continuously. the Halden reactor (HBWR) has between 110 and 120 fuel assemblies [37].g.15). The storage time in the pool is usually several years. which acts both as a coolant and as shielding from ionizing radiation. To cool down the spent fuel.g. while some naval propulsion systems need concentrations as high as 96% [36].) need to shut down before refuelling. The rest product is depleted uranium (DU) which has its own areas of use. radiation shielding and armour piercing weapons. and the new and former assemblies are then reorganized in order to opti- mize efficiency. The pellets have a hard ceramic substance with a high melting point of 2800 ◦ C. Fuel Production As mentioned.). Used Fuel Storage After the spent fuel has been extracted from the reactor. The fuel rods completely en- capsulate the radioactive fuel. and make up the first barrier in containing the radioactive ele- ments. e.S. The pellets are then into fuel rods made of corrosion resistant metals (Fig. Sweden and Finland do not have a reprocessing program. Many countries. it is normally stored on-site in a spent fuel pool. like the RMBK and CANDU reactors. 41 . in which a lot of radioactive decay is still taking place. Reactor Period How long the fuel stays in the reactor depends on the reactor type. The reactor core nor- mally consists of a few hundred fuel assemblies. The fuel assemblies are extracted at the end of their lifetime. like the U.U-235. A few reactor types.K. Most reactors (BWR. which then again are grinded to a uniform size. in which the spent fuel is transported to a reprocessing plant (e.15: Fuel pellets and rods [16]. armour. The fuel rods are normally surrounded by water or boric acid.3. ballast. 5 E. About one third of the fuel assemblies are replaced. depending on the reactor size5 . the fuel rods are removed from the assemblies. In 4 Another name for fuel assemblies are fuel bundles. Figure 3. PWR etc. Some of the fuel can then go through a recycling process.

the Yucca Mountains has been chosen as the final resting place for their high level waste. be reduced by more frequent refuelling and reprocessing. the final disposal site for high level large part of the stored away spent waste in Finland [38]. and eventually permanent storage. this has its background in the ban on reprocessing in commercial reactors in order to reduce proliferation. The plutonium recovered from spent fuel also contains the contaminating Pu-240 isotope. A Figure 3. 3. In future breeder re- actors the much more abundant fertile isotopes can be used.3. while the other components of the reactor are considered MLW or LLW depending on the 6 The extracted plutonium can also be used as bomb material.the U. medium level waste and high level waste (HLW). When it comes to a nuclear reactor. fuel has a high percentage of fertile isotopes. the spent fuel is HLW. Weapons grade plutonium needs a high purity of Pu-239. usable in these reactors. 42 . There have however. only the fissile isotopes are recycled and used as new fuel.3. The plans in Sweden and Finland (shown in Fig.16: Onkalo. Closed Fuel Cycles and Radioactive Waste The storage time for the radioactive waste depends on the elements and material. Today. After the cool-down time the spent fuel is moved to dry cask storage. which is unwanted.S. thus both reducing the waste problem and supplying the energy need. In the U. which is why the U. This problem can however.16) are to store the waste in deep un- derground structures. which was issued by president Ford and confirmed by president Carter. been several delays and continuous discussions about this decision.S.2 Reprocessing. banned reprocessing.S. The recovered uranium and plutonium6 is mixed together by a method called PUREX (Pluto- nium and uranium recovery by EXtraction). Ra- dioactive waste is categorized in three levels: Low level waste (LLW). several hun- dred meters below the surface. This means that today’s waste can be used as fuel in the future.

Nuclide Amount (g/ton) Nuclide Amount (g/ton) Np-236 5. The incineration of a MA requires fast neutrons. and will be dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years [19]. A table of transuranic elements present in the spent fuel in a light water reactor is given in Tab. The remains of the chopped off fuel rods can be stored as MLW.3. Untreated high level waste from reactors will stay highly radioactive for a long time.8 × 102 Cm-245 2.6 × 103 Cm-244 3. the MA-rods are again reprocessed. The rules concerning LLW and MLW are not as strict as HLW.9 × 10−3 Pu-239 5.3.2 × 10−2 Cm-247 3.4 × 102 Pu-238 2.7 × 102 Cm-248 2.5 × 102 Am-243 1. The most common mixture is (U.3.1 × 10 Pu-241 6.3 × 102 Cm-242 5.5 Np-237 6. but because of the harsh radioactivity of the elements. exposion of radiation.3 Pu-242 6.3 × 10−1 Pu-240 2. The reprocessed uranium and plutonium can then be used as new fuel (section 3. originating either from nuclear warheads or re- 43 . In a thermal reactors more than 95% of the spent fuel is U-238.3. The rest products are all sent to permanent storage or separated. The reprocessing is chemically easy. In ADS and some generation IV reactors the MA’s may be stacked in separate rods.2. There the fuel elements are cut and dissolved in nitric acid (HNO3 ). 3. separating the FA and MA.3: Transuranics in LWR spent fuel (40 GWd/ton U) after 15 years decay [40].9 × 103 Cm-243 4. When extracted from the reactor. 3.0 × 102 Cm-246 3. From a storage point of view it might therefore favourable to use the aforementioned reprocessing methods as much as possible. The resulting solution then undergoes solvent extraction and ion exchange steps to separate the elements [39]. as only a small fraction of MA isotopes are fissile. Actinide burning will be discussed in more detail in chapter 2. There is also a fair amount of U-235 left. MOX (Mixed OXide) fuel is a mixture of different kinds of uranium and plutonium oxides. and new Pu-239 which has been bread from U-238.7 × 10−3 Am-241 7. the technical process is difficult and remote handling is needed. while the rest products from the spent fuel consisting of minor actinides (MA) and fission products (FP) are stored as HLW. Several neutron captures might be necessary before a fission reaction takes occurs. Pu)O2 .3).3 × 10−4 Am-242m 2. and put into the reactor in order to burn them up through fission.2 × 10−1 Pu-244 4.4 × 10−4 Table 3.3 Mixed Fuel Many of today’s reactor either use or have the possibility to use a mix of different fuels. With a closed fuel cycle the spent fuel is sent to reprocessing after it has cooled down. or as a mixture in the fuel rods. and these need less shielding and storage time.

from the thorium. Pu)O2 . Thorium can be mixed with both uranium (Th. An increased worldwide concern regarding the proliferation risk associated with the reprocessing of spent fuel. All projects regarding the thorium fuel cycle were terminated in the 80’s [21]. U-232 is formed by U-233(n. U)O2 and plu- tonium (Th. as a thorium-uranium mix in several experiments.4 Benefits of Using Thorium Fuel Thorium has been used in fuel. While the protection needed to handle U-235 and Pu-239 is gloves and a 44 . Even though the two latter oxides are mixed fuels. the uranium resources are sufficient. Since thorium is not fissile. The IAEA lists the following 5 properties as reasons to consider thorium [29] (my comments and discussion): Intrinsic Proliferation As a bomb-material pure U-233 is theoretically very suitable.processed from spent fuel.3. 3. starting in the mid-50’s and lasting for roughly three decades. In the latter years there has been increased interest in the use of thorium because of several interesting qualities. it is common to refer to them as thorium-uranium and thorium-plutonium instead of MOX to avoid being confused with the uranium-plutonium mixture. 2. an acronym for Plutonium .2n)U-232. There are however some practical problems. After a while the reactor will breed its own fissile material.URanium EXtraction. The IAEA report: ”Thorium fuel cycle - Potential benefits and challenges” [29] states that the reason why the thorium fuel cycle has not been introduced commercially is that. 3. U-233. The latter is also called PUREX. at the moment. The view by the Norwegian Thorium Report Committee is that the thorium cycle projects were abandoned in the 80’s for three reasons [21]: 1. The U-232 has a short half-life of 69 years and has strong gamma emitting daughter products. In many countries there was a lack of political support for the development of nuclear technology in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident. Underlying here is the fact that it is cheaper to run a reactor on the already established and well-known uranium cycle. So future fuel can in principle just consist of Th-232. Normally this would be solved by using U-235 in the start-up period. The presence of U-232 also makes it difficult to fabricate weapons grade U-233 because of the harsh radiation environment. First of all there will always be U-232 present in thorium reactors. The thorium fuel cycle could not compete economically with the more well-known uranium cycle. From a weapons point of view this is undesirable because it can cause a pre-initiation of the bomb. pure thorium can not be used as a fuel when the reactor starts up.

g. e. Pa-231. Better Thermo-physical Properties The chemical properties of ThO2 has some promising features compared to those of UO2 . for ThO2 is one order of magnitude smaller then that of UO2 [29]. 45 . Th-229. it is much better to do so using (Th. thorium seems like a good candidate for accelerator driven systems. Pu)O2 fuel. And on this way. as well as the fission products. and U-232 [29]. compared to (U. the U-232 and U-233 has to be handled remotely. by far disfavours U-233 compared to the other alternatives. The amount of fission products which escapes the confinement of the fuel rods. the aforementioned arguments do not exclude the construction of a nuclear bomb based on the U-233-isotope. the so-called fission product release rate. it is more stable and have a higher melting point. By incinerating plutonium in normal uranium reactors. Separation of U-233 from U-232 is also more difficult because of the small difference in mass of the two. Fewer Long Lived Actinides The use of ThO2 fuel hardly produces any minor actinides (Np. Superior Plutonium Incineration In regard to plutonium incineration. Th-228. fission has to be avoided in the fissile isotopes. and about 60% more than that of Pu-239 [41]. Am. There are however. But there is no doubt that the effort needed. As one of the objectives in ADS is the transmutation of actinides. Other advantages of ThO2 are higher thermal conductivity and radiation resistance. Less than a third of the mass compared to U-235 is needed. Attractive for Use in Accelerator Driven Systems (ADS) Based on the above discussion. First off. the use of thorium seems beneficial since the thorium virtually does not produce any TUE itself. other unwanted elements connected with thorium fuel. Still. The U-233 isotope has to capture neutrons all the way to U-237 before it has any real chance of beta-decaying to Neptunium. Pu)O2 fuel. U-230. The reduction of long-lived high atomic mass minor actinides in the thorium fuel makes it favourable compared to uranium and U-Pu (PUREX) fuel concerning long-term nuclear waste. Cm) or plutonium.suit. as the former does not breed any additional plutonium. U-233 and U-235. the U-238 isotope which is always present can be bred into plutonium itself.

46 .

a short-term change in fuel-policy seems unlikely. Still. The best uranium mines are almost all depleted. With almost all of today’s existing and planned reactors being of the thermal kind. By a continu- ation of today’s nuclear policy where the once-through uranium cycle is dominating. 47 . those actors. The global energy resources which lies in the fertile isotopes U-238 and Th-232 are substantial. For those who want to take part of this expansion. and both old and new members of the nuclear club are planning a substantial expansion in the sector. and a nuclear energy future based on the breeding of these has tremendous potential with enough resources to last hundreds of years. with minor changes to the nuclear plant.Conclusion Already the uranium resources are getting scarce. The global interest in nuclear power has been at an incline for several years. More than a dozen countries have already depleted their mines. the peak production in nuclear power will be a reality in just a few decades. many of these reactors are capable of switching to thorium. being both the governments and the nuclear industry needs to take their part in securing a safe and responsible development.

48 .

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