Impact of Fuel Density on Performance and Economy of Research Reactors

Research reactor fuel technology continues to evolve, driven in part by international efforts to develop high density fuels to enable the conversion of more reactors from highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuels. These high density fuels may offer economic benefits for research reactors, despite being more expensive initially, because they offer the prospect of higher per-assembly burnup, thus reducing the number of assemblies that must be procured, and more flexibility in terms of spent fuel management compared to the currently qualified and commercially available LEU silicide fuels. Additionally, these new fuels may offer better performance characteristics. This publication provides a preliminary evaluation of the impacts on research reactor performance and fuel costs from using high density fuel. Several case studies are presented and compared to illustrate these impacts.
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