Title: Comparison of sodium and lead-cooled fast reactors regarding reactor physics aspects, severe safety and economical issues
Citation: NUCLEAR ENGINEERING AND DESIGN vol. 236 p. 1589-1598
Publication Year: 2006
JRC N°: JRC34556
URI: http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC34556
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: A large number of new fast reactors may be needed earlier than foreseen in the Generation IV plans. According to the median forecast of the Special Report on Emission Scenarios commissioned by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control nuclear power will increase by a factor of four by 2050. The drivers for this expected boost are the increasing energy demand in developing countries, energy security, but also climate concerns. However, staying with a once-through cycle will lead to both a substantially increased amount of high-level nuclear waste and an upward pressure on the price of uranium and even concerns about its availability in the coming decades. Therefore, it appears wise to accelerate the development of fast reactors and efficient re-processing technologies. In this paper, two fast reactor systems are discussed—the sodium-cooled fast reactor, which has already been built and can be further improved, and the lead-cooled fast reactor that could be developed relatively soon. An accelerated development of the latter is possible due to the sizeable experience on lead/bismuth eutectic coolant in Russian Alpha-class submarine reactors and the research efforts on accelerator-driven systems in the EU and other countries. First, comparative calculations on critical masses, fissile enrichments and burn-up swings of mid-sized SFRs and LFRs (600MWe) are presented. Monte Carlo transport and burn-up codes were used in the analyses. Moreover, Doppler and coolant temperature and axial fuel expansion reactivity coefficients were also evaluated with MCNP and subsequently used in the European Accident Code-2 to calculate reactivity transients and unprotected Loss-of-Flow (ULOF) and Loss-of-Heat Sink (ULOHS) accidents. Further, ULOFs as well as decay heat removal (protected Total Loss-of-Power, TLOP) were calculated with the STAR-CD CFD code for both systems. We show that LFRs and SFRs can be used both as burners and as self-breeders, homogeneously incinerating minor actinides. The tight pin lattice SFRs (P/D = 1.2) appears to have a better neutron economy than wide channel LFRs (P/D = 1.6), resulting in larger BOL actinide inventories and lower burn-up swings for LFRs. The reactivity burn-up swing of an LFR self-breeder employing BeO moderator pins could be limited to 1.3$ in 1 year. For a 600MWe LFR burner, LWR-to-burner support ratio was about two for (U, TRU)O2-fuelled system, while it increased to approximately 2.8 when (Th, TRU)O2 fuel was employed. The corresponding figures for an SFR were somewhat lower. The calculations revealed that LFRs have an advantage over SFRs in coping with the investigated severe accident initiators (ULOF, ULOHS, TLOP). The reason is better natural circulation behavior of LFR systems and the much higher boiling temperature of lead. A ULOF accident in an LFR only leads to a 220K coolant outlet temperature increase whereas for an SFR the coolant may boil. Regarding the economics, the LFR seems to have an advantage since it does not require an intermediate coolant circuit. However, it was also proposed to avoid an intermediate coolant circuit in an SFR by using a supercritical CO2 Brayton cycle. But in an LFR, the reduced concern about air and water ingress may decrease its cost further.
JRC Directorate:Energy, Transport and Climate

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