Moving Towards Sustainable Thorium Fuel Cycles
International Conference on the Future of Heavy Water Reactors - 2011 October 02-05

Presented at:
International Conference on the Future of Heavy Water Reactors
2011 October 02-05
Ottawa, Canada
Session Title:
Thorium Fuel

Bronwyn Hyland (Atomic Energy of Canada Limited)
H. Hamilton (Atomic Energy of Canada Limited)


The CANDU® reactor has an unsurpassed degree of fuel-cycle flexibility as a consequence of its fuel-channel design, excellent neutron economy, on-power refueling, and simple fuel bundle design.  These features facilitate the introduction and full exploitation of thorium fuel cycles in CANDU reactors in an evolutionary fashion.

Thoria (ThO2) based fuel offers both fuel performance and safety advantages over urania (UO2) based fuel, due its higher thermal conductivity which results in lower fuel‑operating temperatures at similar linear element powers.  Thoria fuel has demonstrated lower fission gas release than UO2 under similar operating powers during test irradiations. In addition, thoria has a higher melting point than urania and is far less reactive in hypothetical accident scenarios owing to the fact that it has only one oxidation state.

This paper examines one possible strategy for the introduction of thorium fuel cycles into CANDU reactors. In the short term, the initial fissile material would be provided in a heterogeneous bundle of low-enriched uranium and thorium. The medium term scenario uses homogeneous Pu/Th bundles in the CANDU reactor, further increasing the energy derived from the thorium.  In the long term, the full energy potential from thorium would be realized through the recycle of the U-233 in the used fuel.  With U-233 recycle in CANDU reactors, plutonium would then only be required to top up the fissile content to achieve the desired burnup.

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