Uranium vs. Thorium: Mining, Processing, Waste Generation

I’ve taken a little time to do another comparison slide between the waste generated in a typical light-water reactor compared to a liquid-fluoride thorium reactor. For the light-water reactor waste calculations, I used the WISE Uranium Nuclear Fuel Energy Balance Calculator and used a baseline value of 1 GW*yr of electricity production. I accepted all the defaults of the calculator, with the exception that I used a fuel burnup of 35 GW*day/MTU, and a electrical generation efficiency of 33%.

For the fluoride reactor, I assumed

  • complete burn-up of the thorium feed
  • two-fluid fluoride reactor using reductive extraction for blanket fueling/protactinium removal
  • fluorination to recover uranium from the core salt before reprocessing

For the power conversion system, I assumed a triple-reheat helium gas turbine with a 50% electrical conversion efficiency, which is consistent with

  • 1050 K turbine inlet temperature
  • 300 K compressor inlet temperature
  • overall pressure ratio of 8:1
  • 90% compressor efficiency
  • 92% turbine efficiency
  • 95% regenerator effectiveness
  • and 1%/100K pressure losses.

The data on thorium mining came from ORNL/TM-6474.

Here’s the results of my calculations:

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