Advanced reactors get R&D funding

fast parrotMultiple developments this week indicate there is long-term interest beyond light water reactor technologies especially for designs that can burn spent nuclear fuel. Following are summaries of reports from several nuclear energy wire services.

DOE Awards $13 Million For Advanced Reactor Projects

(NucNet): The US Department of Energy announced that five advanced reactor projects would receive a total of $13 million in cost-share funding to address technical challenges to the design, construction and operation of next-generation nuclear units.

The companies receiving the awards are:

  • Areva Federal Services with TerraPower, Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and Texas A&M University for modeling and simulation for longer life cores, thermal hydraulic simulations and experimental investigation for liquid metal cooled fast reactor fuel assemblies;
  • GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy with ANL for development and modernization of next-generation probabilistic risk assessment methodologies related to its PRISM reactor design;
  • General Atomics with the University of California at San Diego and the University of South Carolina for fabrication and testing complex silicon carbide structures for advanced reactor fuel concepts;
  • NGNP Industry Alliance with Areva, UltraSafe Nuclear Company, Westinghouse, and Texas A&M University for high temperature gas reactor (HTGR) post-accident heat removal and testing;
  • Westinghouse Electric Company with ANL and the University of Pittsburgh for development of thermo-acoustic sensors for sodium-cooled fast reactors.

China develops advanced CANDU technology

(NucNet & WNN)  According to a review commissioned by the China Nuclear Energy Association, Candu Energy Inc’s Advanced Fuel Candu Reactor (AFCR) technology can work to form a synergy with China’s existing pressurized water reactors is consistent with China’s overall nuclear power development strategy.

The panel said the AFCR, which can use both recycled uranium and thorium-based fuels, meets the latest nuclear safety requirements and the requirements for a Generation III nuclear power technology.  It added that Candu Energy’s Advanced Fuel Candu Reactor (AFCR) should be further developed and that the proper time should be chosen to “initiate the construction of AFCRs.”

Candu Energy of Canada and Chinese nuclear companies have opened an advanced fuel technology research and development center in Beijing. China National Nuclear Corporation said the center will be responsible for the strategic development of Candu research, fuel and isotope projects and technical support. Candu Energy is working with China to further develop thorium as an alternative fuel source. There are two Candu 6 reactor units at the Qinshan nuclear station in China.

China has recently inked development, financing, and engineering deals with Romania for two new CANDU-6 700 MW reactors and with Argentina for a new 700 MW CANDU-6 reactor. Atomic Energy Canada Ltrd (AECL) sold off its reactor division in 2011 to SNC Lavalin which would be the vendor for these projects.

Russia’s BN-1200 fast reactor to break ground in 2020

(NucNet) Construction of Russia’s Beloyarsk-5 BN-1200 fast neutron reactor will break ground in 2020 according to a statement by Rosatom’s chief Sergei Kiriyenko.

Russia is currently building the BN-800 which is expected to start operation in the next few months.  That reactor achieved its first criticality in June 2014. A BN-600 is in commercial operation in Yekaterinburg in central Russia. The site is 1800 km (700 miles) due east of Moscow.

Kiriyenko said that if the design of the BN-1200 proves successful, two units will be built at a site about 200 Km south of Yekaterinburg by 2030.

GEH PRISM reactor get noticed

The technology geek forum Gizmodo has a profile of GE Hitachi’s PRISM reactor which is designed to burn surplus plutonium.

“In fact, according to GE’s Eric Lowen, it should—theoretically at least—be able to extract 99 times as much energy from a given unit of uranium than any reactor currently in use. This is due to the system’s use of liquid sodium as its coolant, rather than water.”

“The liquid sodium doesn’t suck as much energy from radiating neutrons as water does and that extra energy in turn creates a more efficient fission reaction. And not only does this generate more electrical power per unit of fuel, it drastically reduces the half-life of the remainder—only about 300 years, down from the 300,000 years of conventional nuclear waste.”

The reactor itself will produce an expected 311 MW of electricity, though they will generally operate in 622 MW pairs over their 60 year service lives.”

According to Gizmodo, the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is currently reviewing PRISM technology along with a number of other options to reduce, if not eliminate, its plutonium stockpile.

South Korea to build advanced reactor to burn spent nuclear fuel

South Korea has established a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) to build a GEN IV sodium-cooled fast reactor. It will derive some of its technology from the ANL EBR-II design which was shut down for political reasons during the Clinton Administration.

The South Korean project expects to complete the reactor by 2028 and will use it to burn spent nuclear fuel from its fleet of 44 conventional light water reactors.  South Korean nuclear officials estimate the country will have 47,000 tons of it by 2050.

Younggyun Kim, Director of South Korea’s Sodium Fast Reactor Development Agency, said in a statement at ANL near Chicago, IL, October 28 that GEN IV design characteristics include enhanced safety, improved economics, and waste minimization as well as proliferation resistance.

The reactor is seen also as a key technological lynchpin in a revised 1-2-3 agreement between the U.S. and South Korea. On Octboer 29th both the U.S. and South Korea said that substantial progress has been made in developing the new agreement.

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