This preview shows page 1. Sign up to view the full content.
Unformatted text preview: FAST BREEDER REACTORS
Energy production by fast breeding remains the main goal of the Liquid Metal Fast
Reactor (LMFR) to ensure a sustainable long term fissile fuel supply. In addition, the use of
LMFRs allows the recycling of the Minor Actinides content of nuclear waste burning them to
produce energy and reduce the amounts of disposed waste. Another advantage of the LMFR is
its higher thermal efficiency compared with water-cooled reactors.
The sustainable, environmentally clean long term use of nuclear power can be achieved
with fast reactors, since thermal reactors are capable of burning less than 1 percent of the
uranium fuel. It is surmised that the known reserves of uranium will fuel thermal reactors for
only a few decades. Fast reactors burn most of the uranium fuel extending the power producing
capability of the uranium reserves into the hundreds of years, making the recoverable energy
resource from uranium larger than from coal. Fig. 1: The Experimental Breeder Reactor I, EBR-I, in the Idaho desert turned into
a museum. It used a Na-K eutectic alloy that was liquid at room temperature as a coolant.
238 The fast reactor first transforms the 99.3 percent in the original ore abundant isotope U
239 into Pu , then burning it to produce to produce 50 to 60 times as much energy per metric tonne
of uranium ore as a thermal reactor. Recycling becomes an essential part of the fast reactor
system since the fuel is recycled through the reactor several times.
The first nuclear electricity was produced on December 20, 1951 in the Experimental
Breeder Reactor I or EBR-I at Idaho. It was turned into a museum after an accident, and was superseded by the Experimental Breeder Reactor II, or EBR-II which successfully produced
electricity for more than 25 years. Fig. 2: The Experimental Breeder Reactor I, EBR-I, lighted up a string of light
bulbs with the first produced nuclear electricity on December 20, 1951. Fig. 3: The Experimental Breeder Reactor II, EBR-II, at Idaho used a sodium
coolant. Fig. 4: EBR-II Flow diagram. Fig. 5: EBR-II Reactor building. Fig. 6: EBR-II sodium pump. Fig. 7: EBR-II pressure vessel configuration. Fig. 8: EBR-II core and blanket assembly. Fig. 9: EBR-II control rod assembly.
In the earliest days emphasis was placed on the breeding of fissile material. The
increasing availability of cheap fossil fuels in the 1960s shifted the emphasis to include
other uses for fast reactors, particularly for the control of plutonium stocks and the
treatment of radioactive wastes. In spite of these additional functions the main long term
importance of fast reactors as breeders, essential to world energy supplies, remains
Another advantage of the LMFBR concept is its operation at high temperature
offering a high thermal efficiency. In addition it operates at low pressure so that a
pressurization system is not required, and the loss of cooling through depressurization is not a safety consideration. This makes the fast reactor as an attractive inherently safe
In the 1940s it was realized that fast reactors would have potential advantages
over thermal reactors because the excess neutrons available. These could be used for
breeding fissile material from the fertile isotopes. This is the key to utilizing the
238 enormous world-wide energy reserve represented by U .
The development of civilian fast reactors in the late 1940s involved test reactors
such as Clementine and the Experimental Breeder Reactor I (EBR-I) in the USA and BR2 in the USSR. There were also low-power experimental assemblies such as Zephyr and
Zeus in the UK.
Demonstration reactors followed such as the EBR-II in the USA, BOR-60 in the
USSR, Rapsodie in France and DFR in the UK were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s.
This eventually led to prototype power reactors such as Phénix in France, PFR in the UK
and BN-350 in Kazakhstan, and finally full scale power plants like the Super Phénix or
SPX in France and BN-600 in Russia. FAST REACTOR POWER PLANTS
Prototype fast reactors have been built with a power level of 250 MWe such as
Phénix in France and the Prototype Fast Reactor (PFR) in Dounreay, UK. The KNK2
reactor produced 20 MWe and the 300 MWe Schneller Naturiumgekülter Reaktor
(SNR300) in Germany.
A full power commercial plant is the 1,200 MWe Super Phénix-1 (SPX1) plant in
France. It was built as a collaborative effort between Germany, Belgium, the
Netherlands, Italy and the UK. It is owned and operated by three utilities: Electricité de
France (EDF), Schnell-Brüter-Kernkraftwerks-Gesellschaft (GSF) and ENEL.
The Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) a mixture of PuO and UO is the preferred fuel
2 2 with sodium as a coolant.
Two design concepts: the pool type and the loop type configurations have been
considered, with the pool type gaining a preference. Both approaches use a primary and
a secondary heat transport systems followed by a steam generation loop to the turbine
plant. SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS
The reactor core, primary coolant pump and the intermediate heat exchanger are
contained in the main reactor tank in the pool design. The liquid sodium metal is
contained in a simple double walled tank without penetrations below the sodium surface
level and operating at atmospheric pressure. The loss of primary coolant becomes so
unlikely as to be incredible.
The primary sodium has such a large thermal heat capacity that it can survive the
loss of decay heat cooling after the reactor has been shut down for about 10 hours. There exist substantial margins between normal operating temperatures and the coolant boiling
temperature. Fig. 10: Super Phénix fast reactor, France.
The concept possesses a strong negative power coefficient of reactivity
associated with the fuel: when the temperature of the fuel rises, the power goes down in
the absence of any control action. There exist no significant positive coefficients below
the sodium boiling point. This implies that such a reactor is completely stable under
normal operation. It can survive some hypothetical fault conditions for which the design
intent of fast automatic shutdown is assumed not to take place. For instance, after a
hypothesized loss of all pumping power to the coolant flow in the secondary circuits,
there would be a reduction of power following the negative reactivity effects arising from
thermal expansion, to a degree that can be removed by the emergency decay heat removal
As engineered safety features, highly reliable shutdown and decay heat removal
systems are provided. In the prototypes used reliable shutdown systems never
experienced ant failures.
Two separate systems are used to remove the decay heat following shutdown.
The first system uses the conventional steam system associated with the turbine. The
second uses dedicated heat exchangers immersed in the primary coolant transferring heat
to a Na or a Na-K alloy that is liquid at room temperature, from which heat is removed to
the atmosphere. The plant temperatures can be maintained at safe levels by natural air
flow in needed. Fig. 11: Super Phénix plant configuration.
The double walled reactor tank and its roof provide a strong primary containment
structure that can deal with a wide range of hypothetical accidents. A secondary
containment is provided around the primary circuit with the ability to deal with an
internal pressure with a low leak rate.
With the loss of coolant made incredible, a highly reliable shutdown and decay
heat removal systems, the reactor design has practically no faults within the design basis
down to 1 in a million, which produces a possibility for any active release from the fuel.
The low operating pressure of the sodium and the enormous affinity of liquid
131 sodium for fission products such as I provides a second barrier. Fig. 12: Super Phénix coolant circuit. COMPONENTS DESIGN
Since the sodium circuit operates at virtually atmospheric pressure, the main
stresses on the components are due to the temperature gradients with creep and fatigue
being the main considerations.
The steam generators receive particular attention because the leaks of water or
steam into the sodium could produce secondary damage and shorten the components
lifetimes. Once through units with helically wound tubes have been used and ferritic
materials such as 9Cr 1Mo alloys have been adopted.
Inservice inspection methods using ultrasound to monitor the components
immersed in sodium are meant to extend the life of the structures. FUEL AND CLADDING COMPOSITION
The choice fuel is the Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) which is a mixture of PuO and
2 UO . Burnup is the design parameter of most significance for the fuel cycle cost. Higher
2 levels of burnup imply more favorable fuel costs and are achievable at a level of 10-20
percent. The fuel burnup is defined as: A 10 percent fuel burnup corresponds to 95,000 MWth.days / metric tonne of fuel
of energy release.
It is expected that the fuel cycle costs would be lower than for thermal reactors
compensating for a higher capital cost component for fast reactors. Potential new cladding and wrapper materials can increase the fuel burnup such
as 10Cr 25Ni, Inconel 706, Nimonic PE16 alloys, dispersion strengthened ferritic steels
for the cladding, and martensitic materials for the wrappers. Fig. 13: Super Phénix reactor vessel. Fig. 14: Super Phénix core configuration. Fig. 15: Super Phénix fuel handling system. Fig. 16: Super Phénix fuel assembly. Fig. 17: Super Phénix steam turbine. REFERENCES
1. A. Judd, “Fast Breeder Reactors,” Pergamon Press, Oxford, 1981.
2. J. G. Yevick, Ed., “Fast Reactor Technology: Plant Design,” MIT Press, 1966.
3. W.H.Hannum, Guest editor, “The Technology of the Integral Fast Reactor and its Associated
Fuel Cycle,” in “Progress in Nuclear Energy,” Volume 31, No. 1/2, 1997,
4. Alan E. Waltar and Albert B. Reynolds, "Fast Breeder Reactors," Pergamon Press, 1980.
5. Alan E.Waltar, "America the Powerless, facing our Nuclear Energy dilemma,” Cogito Books,
Madison, Wisconsin, 1995. ...
View Full Document
This note was uploaded on 06/16/2010 for the course NPRE 402 taught by Professor Ragheb during the Spring '08 term at University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.
- Spring '08