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Deployable nuclear fleet based on available quantities of uranium and reactor types – the case of fast reactors started up with enriched uranium

Abstract : International organizations regularly produce global energy demand scenarios. To account for the increasing population and GDP trends, as well as to encompass evolving energy uses while satisfying constraints on greenhouse gas emissions, long-term installed nuclear power capacity scenarios tend to be more ambitious, even after the Fukushima accident. Thus, the amounts of uranium or plutonium needed to deploy such capacities could be limiting factors. This study first considers light-water reactors (LWR, GEN III) using enriched uranium, like most of the current reactor technologies. It then examines the contribution of future fast reactors (FR, GEN IV) operating with an initial fissile load and then using depleted uranium and recycling their own plutonium. However, as plutonium is only available in limited quantity since it is only produced in nuclear reactors, the possibility of starting up these Generation IV reactors with a fissile load of enriched uranium is also explored. In one of our previous studies, the uranium consumption of a third-generation reactor like an EPR$^{TM}$ was compared with that of a fast reactor started up with enriched uranium (U5-FR). For a reactor lifespan of 60 years, the U5-FR consumes three times less uranium than the EPR and represents a 60% reduction in terms of separative work units (SWU), though its requirements are concentrated over the first few years of operation. The purpose of this study is to investigate the relevance of U5-FRs in a nuclear fleet deployment configuration. Considering several power demand scenarios and assuming different finite quantities of available natural uranium, this paper examines what types of reactors must be deployed to meet the demand. The deployment of light-water reactors only is not sustainable in the long run. Generation IV reactors are therefore essential. Yet when started up with plutonium, the number of reactors that can be deployed is also limited. In a fleet deployment configuration, U5-FRs appear to provide the best solution for using uranium, even if the economic impact of this consumption during the first years of operation is significant.
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Anne Baschwitz, Gilles Mathonnière, Sophie Gabriel, Tommy Eleouet. Deployable nuclear fleet based on available quantities of uranium and reactor types – the case of fast reactors started up with enriched uranium. EPJ N - Nuclear Sciences & Technologies, EDP Sciences, 2016, 2, pp.12. ⟨10.1051/epjn/e2016-50073-8⟩. ⟨cea-01370205⟩

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