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Russia's fast neutron reactor enters commercial operation

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posted on Nov, 1 2016 @ 06:23 PM
First, an explanation of Fast Neutron Reactors…

A fast neutron reactor [abbreviated, FNR later in the next article. AKA, ‘fast reactor’] is a category of nuclear reactor in which the fission chain reaction is sustained by fast neutrons. Such a reactor needs no neutron moderator, but must use fuel that is relatively rich in fissile material when compared to that required for a thermal reactor.

In order to sustain a fission chain reaction, the neutrons released in fission events have to react with other atoms in the fuel. The chance of this occurring depends on the energy of the neutron; most atoms will only undergo induced fission with high energy neutrons, although a smaller number prefer much lower energies.

Natural uranium consists mostly of three isotopes, U-238, U-235, and trace quantities of U-234, a decay product of U-238. U-238 accounts for roughly 99.3% of natural uranium and undergoes fission only by neutrons with energies of 5 MeV or greater, the so-called fast neutrons. About 0.7% of natural uranium is U-235, which undergoes fission by neutrons of any energy.

Wikipedia entry: Fast-neutron reactor.

Some explanations (any mistakes are my own). An isotope is just a variation on the number of interior atom components protons and neutrons. So in the above uranium (atomic symbol: U) comes in three common weights, 234, 235, 238, and to designate which one is which the weight is added (sometimes as a superscript) resulting in U-234, etc. Later on, the Pu, is the atomic symbol for plutonium.

Fission is a nuclear reaction that splits the atom releasing energy and particle pieces. All current nuclear reactors use this method to create fast moving particles. One is called a neutron. Current reactor design tries to slow these particles down by immersing the fuel in water. The water acts as a moderator slowing the reactions down so they do not run out of control. Doing so means nuclear reactor are only around 33% efficient in converting fuel to energy.

FNRs use the mixture of low-level fissile materials (mixtures of uranium) with high-level materials (a couple plutonium isotopes) to breed more high-level particles to split as much of all the fuel as possible (i.e., use up the maximum amount of fuel releasing as much energy as possible).


posted on Nov, 1 2016 @ 06:30 PM

[In an FNR n]atural uranium… is turned into several isotopes of plutonium during its operation. Two of these, Pu-239 and Pu-241, then undergo fission in the same way as U-235 to produce heat. In a FNR this process is optimised so that it 'breeds' fuel. Some U-238 is burned directly with neutron energies above 1 MeV. Hence FNRs can utilise uranium about 60 times more efficiently than a normal reactor., Nov. 1, 2016 – Russia's fast neutron 789MWe reactor commercially operating and several countries are building 14 new fast reactor designs by 2028.

This is a condensed version of the Wikipedia entry quoted above and explains how FNR creates more plutonium to continue the fission process. The rest of the article is a re-post of the following news item…

Unit 4 of the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant in Russia has started commercial operation, state nuclear corporation Rosatom announced today. The BN-800 fast neutron reactor started operating at 100% power for the first time on 17 August.

The 789 MWe BN-800 Beloyarsk 4 is fuelled by a mix of uranium and plutonium oxides arranged to produce new fuel material as it burns. Its capacity exceeds that of the world's second most powerful fast reactor - the 560 MWe BN-600 Beloyarsk 3., Nov. 1, 2016 - Russia's BN-800 unit enters commercial operation.

So this produces 789 Meg watts of energy (about 300 MW electricity) as it burns through plutonium, one of the most long-lived and deadly substances known to man, and uranium. Plutonium is typically refined for use in nuclear reactors but can also be refined to weapons grade.

The good news is that if they line the walls of the reactor using depleted uranium they can use weapon grade plutonium to breed even more Pu-238 using uranium on the other side of the wall (Wikipedia). So that is a double bonus! Get rid of weapons grade plutonium, use even more uranium, and keep the stuff out of nuclear storage sites for generations to come!

But wait… there’s more…


posted on Nov, 1 2016 @ 06:33 PM

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Southern Nuclear are to collaborate on the development and licensing of [FNRs] including GEH's Prism sodium-cooled fast reactor, the companies announced yesterday.

Prism is a sodium-cooled fast neutron reactor design built on more than 30 years of development work…

Each Prism reactor has a rated thermal power of 840 MW and an electrical output of 311 MW. Two Prism reactors make up a power block, producing a combined total of 622 MW of electrical output. Using passive safety, digital instrumentation and control, and modular fabrication techniques to expedite plant construction, the design uses metallic fuel, such as an alloy of zirconium, uranium, and plutonium. It can therefore be used to close the nuclear fuel cycle, recycling used nuclear fuel to generate energy., Nov. 1, 2016 – GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Southern Nuclear are partnering on PRISM sodium fast reactor.

So, two FNR reactor news items in one day! Now you know a little bit more about fission cycle. Russia is already up and running. They are producing energy to put out on the electric grid (or at least gave the OK for the press release). The USA’s reactor is looking at the 2020s time frame (info graphic on the Russian nextbigfuture article).

Another thing to note about the “nuclear fuel cycle”. Zirconium and graphite are colloquially known as “control rods” and are used to keep the fission burn under control (they keep the flow on neutrons down. That flow is known as the “neutron flux” in case you read that somewhere).

In general, this is great news! We need to approach energy creation and usage with more fore sigt. The concept of “up cycling” while converting raw materials to the wanted product while taking what would be “waste” or “by product” and creating another useful material at the same time needs to be adopted.

Is this a good use of technology (FNRs in general)? Is it my inner hippie getting the best of me? Have you ever heard of an FNR before? Is there hope for the environment or have we already fell of the edge?

[ETA: I hope this was not too long! Seems I get a little excited about topics sometime and forget that some people do not follow this, or know as much, etc. So this time I tried to explain the topic better than in the past!]

edit on 1-11-2016 by TEOTWAWKIAIFF because: grammar nazi

posted on Nov, 1 2016 @ 06:38 PM
Very interesting. I like the part about using up nuclear waste products so we don't bury them for our grandkids to deal with.

posted on Nov, 1 2016 @ 06:43 PM
a reply to: rickymouse

Yeah, that is what the "my inner hippie" comment is all about!

These reactors are similar to thorium reactors in that they both use the by products from nuclear reactors to try and close the fission cycle better. Less radioactive waste is better than more!

posted on Nov, 2 2016 @ 06:16 PM

Sorry to post and run the other day. I am rather enjoying America's pastime right about now!

So, reading up on nuclear reactors (Wikipedia entry), there is a method of classifying them by generation. Current reactors are Type III. The FNR reactors are Type IV (Wikipedia entry), From that entry:

Most of these designs are generally not expected to be available for commercial construction before 2030–40.

So Russia's announcement is really big!

The BN-800 reactor is a sodium-cooled fast breeder reactor, built at the Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Station, in Zarechny, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia. Designed to generate electrical power of 880 MW in total, the plant is the final step to the commercial plutonium cycle breeder. The plant reached its full power production in August, 2016.

Wikipedia: BN-800 [reactor].

There was an announcement I saw that Russia has invited India to participate in their research. Like all good science, the information is being shared with other countries. Fuel ratios and densities, reactor designs and limits, temperature on runs, etc. is all being shared. That fact alone makes the stories of Russia "threating nuclear war" or "preparing for nuclear war with the US" seem rather ridiculous.

No nukes... unless it is an FNR!
edit on 2-11-2016 by TEOTWAWKIAIFF because: clarity

posted on Nov, 2 2016 @ 06:22 PM

Such a reactor needs no neutron moderator, but must use fuel that is relatively rich in fissile material when compared to that required for a thermal reactor.

I don't know, wouldn't such a reactor be a much more dangerous proposition regarding safety? I don't mean operational safety, but security wise? How certain can we be that some ne'erdowells couldn't get their hands on "fissile materials" as opposed to relatively inert materials that need processing?

posted on Nov, 2 2016 @ 06:56 PM
a reply to: Jonjonj

I think the materials can be processed in a secure location (off site). Since it is a mixture of various materials they do not need to be all together at once.

Huh. Now you got me thinking! Something to think about. The same could be said about current reactors. And security is a concern at those. I will wander around and try to find some information. I will post what I find.

Thanks for the reply!

posted on Nov, 3 2016 @ 05:04 AM
Some additional information:

- BN-800 is 789 Megawatt (Electrical) and probably around 2000 MW thermal.
- Metallic Zirconium is typically used as fuel cladding in conventional Light Water Reactors (LWR) because it doesn't absorb or slow neutrons much.
- Control rods are typically made of other materials like silver, indium and cadmium. They absorb neutrons.
- Graphite and Water are moderators, meaning they slow neutrons down. Isotopes such as Uranium-233 have much greater change of being split by a neutron via a slow neutron. This is useful in Light Water Reactors because if reactor power increases, water becomes less dense (or even turns to steam) thus the reaction slows down. The fissile inventory in the reactor can also be minimized.

Fast Neutron Reactors therefore need lack any moderators in the coolant (such as water) so liquid sodium or liquid lead is used. Liquid Sodium is obviously somewhat hazardous.

You might be interested to know that PRISM was the result of a US DOE program called the Integral Fast Reactor (which was cancelled by the Clinton Administration 20 years ago). In a sense PRISM is a form of the Integral Fast Reactor. The BN-800 isn't quiet as advanced as an IFR because it doesn't use metallic fuel, pyroprocessing, or have a large degree of passive safety - but it does share most advantages.

Here are some videos, documentaries, and presentations on the IFR:




Pictured: Depleted Uranium canisters at Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Paducah, Kentucky

Each cylinder contains up to 14,000 kilograms of Uranium Hexafluoride
We have 38,000 cylinders just sitting there at this one enrichment facility in the United States.
Each is equivalent to 60 million megawatt hours at the generator if utilized in a fast breeder reactor.
The 38,000 cylinders are enough to power the United States for 570 years, or are equivalent to trillions of dollars worth of fuel.

I made a thread with a little more information here.

If it were up to me there would be a "Apollo Program" to develop the IFR (and other technologies).
edit on 3/11/16 by C0bzz because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 3 2016 @ 11:51 AM
a reply to: C0bzz

Thank you for the corrections! All errors and misstatements are my own (either the rush to post or misunderstanding of the various types of reactors' functioning). And that is how one learns: make a mistake, get corrected, then do not make that mistake again. I admit that fission reactors are not really my thing as I am more about nuclear fusion. But this news made want to share.

Nice thread! S+F. I probably should have searched a bit better and could have tagged on the Russia article there. I thoroughly agree that the current stock pile of nuclear materials should be used up to create radioactive waste that only lasts centuries instead of thousands of years. This should be not only the US' top priority but the worlds'. It is nice to see one up and running! It will be the demo model for the rest of the world to not just visualize but walk through.

Personally, I like that GEH are designing their reactors as modular. That means multiple productions of the same reactor. While we wait for fusion reactors to come online (another 30 years, right? hehe) we can start converting nuclear waste to useful energy and move away from 1950's technology.

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