Pebble bed reactor fuel cycle optimization using particle swarm algorithm
Pebble bed reactors (PBR) features, such as robust thermo-mechanical fuel design and on-line continuous fueling, facilitate wide range of fuel cycle alternatives. A range off fuel pebble types, containing different amounts of fertile or fissile fuel material, may be loaded into the reactor core. Several fuel loading zones may be used since radial mixing of the pebbles was shown to be limited. This radial separation suggests the possibility to implement the ‘‘seed-blanket” concept for the utilization of fertile fuels such as thorium, and for enhancing reactor fuel utilization. In this study, the particle-swarm meta-heuristic evolutionary optimization method (PSO) has been used to find optimal fuel cycle design which yields the highest natural uranium utilization. The PSO method is known for solving efficiently complex problems with non-linear objective function, continuous or discrete parameters and complex constrains. The VSOP system of codes has been used for PBR fuel utilization calculations and MATLAB script has been used to implement the PSO algorithm. Optimization of PBR natural uranium utilization (NUU) has been carried out for 3000 MWth High Temperature Reactor design (HTR) operating on the Once Trough Then Out (OTTO) fuel management scheme, and for 400 MWth Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) operating on the multi-pass (MEDUL) fuel management scheme. Results showed only a modest improvement in the NUU (<5%) over reference designs. Investigation of thorium fuel cases showed that the use of HEU in combination with thorium results in the most favorable reactor performance in terms of uranium utilization. The results revealed that neutronics characteristics of the PBR technology are only marginally affected by the fuel management choices.