Isotope mixes, corresponding nuclear properties and reactor design implications of naturally occurring lead sources
Watts, Daniel J.
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Lead-cooled Fast Reactors (LFRs) offer great potential for future compact nuclear power systems. The Small, Secure, Transportable, Autonomous Reactor (SSTAR) is a concept for an advanced fast reactor cooled by lead. Such reactors could be improved by using lead that is enriched in radiogenic lead (e.g., 208Pb) in contrast to the average natural isotopic concentration. This improvement is due to the improved neutron reflection and lower neutron absorption cross-sections of the radiogenic isotopes. Artificial isotope separation of lead is cost-prohibitive; however, a natural lead source that is high in 208Pb and low in 204Pb could be used to improve the design of the reactor. The natural variation of lead isotopic content is geochemically investigated to determine if there are favorable naturally occurring lead sources. The results of the investigation are then used in Monte-Carlo simulations with the MCNP5 code to determine the potential benefits of using such a lead composition to the design of a simplified SSTAR-type reactor. The results demonstrate that natural lead sources high in 208Pb could lead to a reduction in the required core enrichment of up to 1 percent; this benefit could also be applied to make the design smaller, or to increase the power output.
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