Nuclear Fuels: Present and Future
The important new developments in nuclear fuels and their problems are reviewed and compared with the status of present light-water reactor fuels. The limitations of these fuels and the reactors they power are reviewed with respect to important recent concerns, namely provision of outlet coolant temperatures high enough for use in H2 production, destruction of plutonium to eliminate proliferation concerns, and burning of the minor actinides to reduce the waste repository heat load and long-term radiation hazard. In addition to current oxide-based fuel-rod designs, the hydride fuel with liquid metal thermal bonding of the fuel-cladding gap is covered. Finally, two of the most promising Generation IV reactor concepts, the Very High Temperature Reactor and the Sodium Fast Reactor, and the accompanying reprocessing technologies, aqueous-based UREX and pyrometallurgical, are summarized. In all of the topics covered, the thermodynamics involved in the material's behavior under irradiation and in the reprocessing schemes are emphasized.