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Molten Salt Reactor Neutronics and Fuel Cycle Modeling and Simulation with SCALE

Publication Type
Journal Name
Annals of Nuclear Energy
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Conference Date

Current interest in advanced nuclear energy and molten salt reactor (MSR) concepts has enhanced interest in building the tools necessary to analyze these systems. A Python script known as ChemTriton has been developed to simulate equilibrium MSR fuel cycle performance by modeling the changing isotopic composition of an irradiated fuel salt using SCALE for neutron transport and depletion calculations. Improved capabilities in ChemTriton include a generic geometry capable of modeling multi-zone and multi-fluid systems, enhanced time-dependent feed and separations, and a critical concentration search. Although more generally applicable, the capabilities developed to date are illustrated in this paper in three applied problems: (1) simulating the startup of a thorium-based MSR fuel cycle (a likely scenario requires the first of these MSRs to be started without available 233U); (2) determining the effect of the removal of different fission products on MSR operations; and (3) obtaining the equilibrium concentration of a mixed-oxide light-water reactor fuel in a two-stage fuel cycle with a sodium fast reactor. The third problem is chosen to demonstrate versatility in an application to analyze the fuel cycle of a non-MSR system.

In the first application, the initial fuel salt compositions fueled with different sources of fissile material are made feasible after (1) removing the associated nonfissile actinides after much of the initial fissile isotopes have burned and (2) optimizing the thorium concentration to maintain a critical configuration without significantly reducing breeding capability. In the second application, noble metal, volatile gas, and rare earth element fission products are shown to have a strong negative effect on criticality in a uranium-fueled thermal-spectrum MSR; their removal significantly increases core lifetime (by 30%) and fuel utilization. In the third application, the fuel of a mixed-oxide light-water reactor approaches an equilibrium composition after 20 depletion steps, demonstrating the potential for the longer time scales required to achieve equilibrium for solid-fueled systems over liquid fuel systems. This time to equilibrium can be reduced by starting with an initial fuel composition closer to that of the equilibrium fuel, reducing the need to handle time-dependent fuel compositions.