Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Materials

Advanced Nuclear Fuels and Fuel Cycles

Thorium Fuel Cycle

There is an increased interest among the Member States for the use of thorium fuel cycle in addressing the sustainable growth of nuclear energy. The major incentives for use of thorium include natural abundance of thorium resources, inert nature of thoria, improved thermo-physical properties compared to urania, high burnup capability, suitability of high conversion ratio fuel cycles, and inherent proliferation resistance characteristics of thorium based fuels.

Thorium based fuels have been studied for their potential applications in almost all types of reactors including PWRs, BWRs, PHWRs, HTRs, FBRs and MSR, though on a smaller scale as compared to U/ U-Pu fuels.

Thorium has several inherent physical and neutronic characteristics that may be exploited in current as well as next generation nuclear energy systems to achieve, for example, enhanced capabilities for high conversion, further augmented inherent safety characteristics, reduced MA production, etc.

Some Member States are of the view that near term deployment of thorium fuels in proven reactor types is not only feasible, but also attractive for contributing to meeting expanding energy needs. Several options are also currently under consideration and even under active development for deployment in a longer term.

The IAEA has initiated a coordinated research programme (CRP) on Near Term and Promising Long Term Options for Deployment of Thorium Based Nuclear Energy in 2012. Canada, China, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, and USA are participating in this CRP. The CRP will provide a platform for sharing of research results and previous experience among the participating Member States. A key focus will be on the development of strategies for deployment of thorium based nuclear energy in near, medium and long term timeframes, and the identification of gaps in achieving the same. The following topics pertaining to thorium fuel cycle will be covered:

  • Reactor Systems: concepts and designs that can effectively use thorium as a fuel;
  • Thorium based fuel fabrication/processing technologies;
  • Thorium fuel performance;
  • Spent thorium fuel reprocessing technologies;
  • Economics of thorium fuel cycles;
  • Identification of gaps that may affect commercial deployment; and
  • Strategies for deploying thorium fuel cycles in different time frames.

The CRP findings will be consolidated in the form of a technical document.

For further information, please contact the NEFW Contact Point.

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