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Technische Universität Darmstadt

1. Frieß, Friederike Renate. Neutron-Physical Simulation of Fast Nuclear Reactor Cores.

Degree: PhD, 05 Department of Physics, 2017, Technische Universität Darmstadt

According to a many publications and discussions, fast reactors hold promises to improve safety, non-proliferation, economic aspects, and reduce the nuclear waste problems. Consequently, several reactor designs advocated by the Generation IV Forum are fast reactors. In reality, however, after decades of research and development and billions of dollars investment worldwide, there are only two fast breeders currently operational on a commercial basis: the Russian reactors BN-600 and BN-800. Energy generation alone is apparently not a sufficient selling point for fast breeder reactors. Therefore, other possible applications for fast nuclear reactors are advocated. Three relevant examples are investigated in this thesis. The first one is the disposition of excess weapon-grade plutonium. Unlike for high enriched uranium that can be downblended for use in light water reactors, there exists no scientifically accepted solution for the disposition of weapon-grade plutonium. One option is the use in fast reactors that are operated for energy production. In the course of burn-up, the plutonium is irradiated which intends to fulfill two objectives: the resulting isotopic composition of the plutonium is less suitable for nuclear weapons, while at the same time the build-up of fission products results in a radiation barrier. Appropriate reprocessing technology is in order to extract the plutonium from the spent fuel. The second application is the use as so-called nuclear batteries, a special type of small modular reactors (SMRs). Nuclear batteries offer very long core lifetimes and have a very small energy output of sometimes only 10 MWe. They can supposedly be placed (almost) everywhere and supply energy without the need for refueling or shuffling of fuel elements for long periods. Since their cores remain sealed for several decades, nuclear batteries are claimed to have a higher proliferation resistance. The small output and the reduced maintenance and operating requirements should make them attractive for remote areas or electrical grids that are not large enough to support a standard-sized nuclear power plant. The last application of fast reactors this thesis investigates promises a solution to the problem of the radioactive waste from nuclear energy production. The separation of the spent fuel in different material streams (partitioning) and the irradiation of minor actinides in a fast neutron spectrum (transmutation) is claimed to solve this problem. Implementation of partitioning and transmutation (P&T) would require centuries of dedicated efforts, since several irradiation cycles and repeated reprocessing of the spent fuel elements between the irradiation cycles would be necessary. For all three applications, computer models of exemplary reactor systems were set up to perform criticality, depletion, and dose rate calculations. Based on the results, a specific critique on the viability of these fast reactor applications was conducted. Possible risks associated with their deployment were investigated. … Advisors/Committee Members: Liebert, Wolfgang (advisor), Drossel, Barbara (advisor).

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APA (6th Edition):

Frieß, F. R. (2017). Neutron-Physical Simulation of Fast Nuclear Reactor Cores. (Doctoral Dissertation). Technische Universität Darmstadt. Retrieved from

Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):

Frieß, Friederike Renate. “Neutron-Physical Simulation of Fast Nuclear Reactor Cores.” 2017. Doctoral Dissertation, Technische Universität Darmstadt. Accessed August 23, 2017.

MLA Handbook (7th Edition):

Frieß, Friederike Renate. “Neutron-Physical Simulation of Fast Nuclear Reactor Cores.” 2017. Web. 23 Aug 2017.


Frieß FR. Neutron-Physical Simulation of Fast Nuclear Reactor Cores. [Internet] [Doctoral dissertation]. Technische Universität Darmstadt; 2017. [cited 2017 Aug 23]. Available from:

Council of Science Editors:

Frieß FR. Neutron-Physical Simulation of Fast Nuclear Reactor Cores. [Doctoral Dissertation]. Technische Universität Darmstadt; 2017. Available from: