[ RadSafe ] Gen IV questions

Brennan, Mike (DOH) Mike.Brennan at DOH.WA.GOV
Mon Jun 11 11:22:40 CDT 2012

Hi, Karen.

I don't work in reactor design, so there are people far more versed in
the subject than I am, but the proliferation potential of spent fuel
from commercial reactors is overstated, and making Gen IV spent fuel
even less desirable for bomb making uses pretty much the same principle
(NOTE: this is for fission devices.  Spent fuel would be adequate for a
"dirty bomb", however I consider dirty bombs less of a concern than
almost any more conventional bomb the bad guys might try to make.)

The way to make SNF undesirable for bomb making is to limit the most
desirable isotope of plutonium (Pu239) that can be removed.  The easiest
way to do that is to cook the fuel longer.  This allows more Pu to be
fissioned, both destroying it and making power.  It also converts more
of the desirable Pu239 into progressively less desirable heavier
isotopes of Pu (which tend to be more radioactive, have smaller fission
cross sections, and do not fission as quickly after absorbing a neutron
as Pu239, making them undesirable for bombs, while acceptable for

One of the slickest designs I've heard about is from Terrapower (I think
that is the name), called a "standing wave" reactor.  As planned, each
fuel pellet will breed new fissile material and use it to support
fission down the length of the pellet.  The plan is that the reactor
will produce power for up to 100 years on a single load of fuel, after
which the reactor itself will be the cask to hold the fuel for whatever
comes next (the expectation being that in 100 years the tech for dealing
with it will have changed.)  

-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu
[mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of Karen Street
Sent: Sunday, June 10, 2012 3:06 PM
To: The International Radiation Protection (Health Physics) Mailing List
Subject: [ RadSafe ] Gen IV questions

I know that Gen IV has plans to make nuclear power more
proliferation-resistent, eg, poison the plutonium for those who
reprocess so no bomb could be made, and deliver uranium with the power
plant, so no one need make their own fuel.

First, is what I know true?

Second, will these generally be true? True of all plants sold to Iran?

Best wishes, 
Karen Street
Friends Energy Project
blog http://pathsoflight.us/musing/index.php

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