Recently, Dr. Eugene Shwageraus’s group, jointly with Brookhaven National Laboratory in the US, has been awarded an Energy Research grant by the Binational US-Israel Science Foundation to develop Thorium based self-sustainable nuclear fuel cycles for Light Water Reactors.
Existing Light Water-cooled Reactors (LWRs) utilize less than one percent of the nuclear fuel energy content, which makes the long term sustainable operation of such reactors impossible. In order to improve utilization of natural resources, nuclear energy can be generated using complex and costly Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs), which can produce new fissile isotopes at a rate equal or higher than that at which the reactor burns them. Such modes of self-sustainable operation would eliminate the need for uranium enrichment and improve the resource utilization by orders of magnitude.
Alternatively, basic nuclear physics data suggests that reactors operating in a self-sustainable fuel cycle can be designed using existing and well-proven LWR technology. Continued reliance on LWRs would have much smaller cost uncertainties than introduction of FBRs, while still have the same advantage of high resource utilization.
In this project, the issue of global energy resources availability is addressed by investigating various options of using known LWR technology in combination with self-sustainable Thorium fuel cycle.