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For a new power source to be viable, the cost of power must be competitive with today's power systems. The proof of costs in any project only comes when full- sized systems are built and operated. Although no full-sized IFR plant has been built, several facts suggest that the IFR will be very economic. Costs of today's nuclear plants are just slightly above that of coal as a national average. Several nuclear plants have operated with costs significantly below that of coal however. A new IFR should cost less than either a new nuclear (typical of today's technology) or coal plant based on the following. The IFR does not require some of the complex systems that today's reactors require. Examples include the low level radwaste cleanup station, the emergency core cooling system, and fewer control rod drives and control rods for comparable power. Because of the low pressure in the sodium systems, less steel is required for the plant piping and reactor vessel. There are studies that suggest that the reactor containment will be less massive. Other cost savings will be made because the IFR does not require the services of the Isotopic Separation Plants for fuel enrichment. Additional costs to the IFR include the integral fuel reprocessing capability, and a secondary sodium system (but the IFR fuel process costs are somewhat offset by the extremely low cost for raw fuel and the improved waste product). Some studies have been done which indicate that an IFR would be very economical and competitive to build, own, and operate, but the final proof of economics can only come in the construction and operation of a commercial sized plant.
The IFR gains safety advantages through a combination of metal fuel (an alloy of uranium, plutonium, and zirconium), and sodium cooling. By providing a fuel which readily conducts heat from the fuel to the coolant, and which operates at relatively low temperatures, the IFR takes maximum advantage of expansion of the coolant, fuel, and structure during off-normal events which increase temperatures. The expansion of the fuel and structure in an off-normal situation causes the system to shut down even without human operator intervention. In April of 1986, two special tests were performed on the Experimental Breeder Reactor II (EBR-II), in which the main primary cooling pumps were shut off with the reactor at full power (62.5 Megawatts, thermal) - By not allowing the normal shutdown systems to interfere, the reactor power dropped to near zero within about 300 seconds. No damage to the fuel or the reactor resulted. This test demonstrated that even with a loss of all electrical power and the capability to shut down the reactor using the normal systems, the reactor will simply shut down without danger or damage. The same day, this demonstration was followed by another important test. With the reactor again at full power, flow in the secondary cooling system was stopped. This test caused the temperature to increase, since there was nowhere for the reactor heat to go. As the primary (reactor) cooling system became hotter, the fuel, sodium coolant, and structure expanded, and the reactor shut down. This test showed that an IFR type reactor will shut down using inherent features such as thermal expansion, even if the ability to remove heat from the primary cooling system is lost. Events such as the loss of water to the steam system would cause a condition such as the test demonstrated. Another major feature of the IFR concept is that the reactor uses a coolant, sodium, which does not boil during normal operation nor even in overpower transients such as described above. This means that the coolant is not under significant pressure. When coolant is not under pressure, the reactor can be placed in a "pool" of coolant, contained in a double tank, so that there is no real possibility for a loss of coolant. Even if the normal pumps are lost, some coolant flow through the reactor occurs due to natural convection. The features described above allow for greater simplification of a nuclear plant, resulting in cost savings, greater ease in operation, and a safety system that relies on natural phenomenon that cannot be defeated by human error.
The diversion of nuclear fuel for the purpose of making bombs has been a concern, although presently the handling and destruction of nuclear weapons material is the primary issue. In the IFR, the nature of the fuel reprocessing is such that the fuel remains highly radioactive at all times. Fuel can only be handled in shielded cells or transported in casks weighing many tons. In addition, because the fuel recycle facility is located on-site, there is no transportation of nuclear which could create an opportunity for diversion. In any event, IFR fuel is not suitable for weapons without extensive processing in very expensive facilities. The potential also exists for the IFR to use weapons material for fuel, thus eliminating it, while producing electricity.
Plus there is the concern of terrorists getting it and manufacturing a dirty bomb.
People are afraid of nuclear causing cancer and of terrorists getting the plutonium. AS the video says, it's hard to separate atoms of peace from atoms of war.
Originally posted by Miccey
No more news about this?
I find the reactors facinating and i think the should get MORE
attention by the goverments...
Preliminary lessons from Fukushima for future nuclear power plants
Guest Post by Dr. William Hannum. Bill worked for more than 40 years in nuclear power development, stretching from design and analysis of the Shippingport reactor to the Integral Fast Reactor.
Advanced recycling, where essentially all of the recyclable material is recovered and used (as opposed to recovery and recycle of plutonium) presents a different picture. Full recycling is effective only with a fast reactor. A metal fuel, clad in stainless steel, allows a design of a sodium-cooled fast reactor with astonishing passive safety characteristics. Because the sodium operates far from its boiling point in an essentially unpressurized system, catastrophic events caused by leakage or pipe failures cannot occur. The metal fuel gives the system very favorable feedback characteristics, so that even the most extreme disruptions are passively accommodated. A complete loss of cooling, such as at Fukushima, leads to only a modest temperature rise. Even if the control system were rendered inoperable, and the system lost cooling but remained at full power (this is a far more serious scenario than Fukushima, where the automatic shutdown system operated as designed) the system would self-stabilize at low power, and be cooled by natural convection to the atmosphere. Should the metal fuel fail for any reason, internal fission product gases would cause the fuel to foam and disperse, providing the most powerful of all shutdown mechanisms.
The only situation that could generate energy to disperse material from the reactor is the possibility of s sodium-water reaction. By using an intermediate sodium system (reactor sodium passes its energy to a non-radioactive sodium system, which then passes its energy to water to generate steam to turn the electrical generator), the possibility of a sodium-water reaction spreading radioactive materials is precluded.
These reactors must accommodate seismic challenges, just as any other reactor type. While there are many such design features in common with other reactor designs, the problem is simpler for the fast reactor because of the low pressure, and the fact that this type of reactor does not need elaborate water injection systems.
Petition the White House for next-generation nuclear fission
This is in response to a brand new feature of the Obama Administration’s WhiteHouse.gov, called “We the People.” It’s an online petition forum in which any petition that garners 5000 signatures within 30 days will be considered and get an official response. Non-binding, but it’s a way to educate and be heard. The system encourages use of social media to gauge public support.
If you are a U.S. citizen (and I know more than 600 of BNC subscribers are), please show your support.
We petition the Obama administration to restart the Integral Fast Reactor nuclear power technology program. Without delay, the U.S. should build a commercial-scale demonstration reactor and adjacent recycling center. General Electric’s PRISM reactor, developed by a consortium of major American companies in partnership with the Argonne National Laboratory, is ready to build now. It is designed to consume existing nuclear waste as fuel, be passively safe and proliferation-resistant. It can provide clean, emissions-free power to counter climate change, and will create jobs as we manufacture and export a superior technology. Abundant homegrown nuclear power will also enhance our nation’s energy security. Our country dedicated some of its finest scientific and engineering talent to this program, with spectacular success. Let’s finish the job we started. It will benefit our nation, and the world.