A vast increase in the sustainability of nuclear energy through demonstrating the technical, industrial and economic viability of Generation-IV fast neutron reactors (FNRs), thereby ensuring that nuclear energy can remain a long-term contributor to the low carbon economy and building on the safety, reliability and competitiveness of current reactors.
Industrial sector objective
To enable the commercial deployment of Generation-IV FNRs from 2040, while in the meantime maintaining at least a 30% share of EU electricity from currently available reactors with an expansion towards the cogeneration of process heat for industrial applications when such markets develop.
Through the design, construction and operation of a prototype sodium fast reactor (SFR), considered as the reference FNR technology, and a demonstrator reactor of alternative technology (either gas or lead cooled fast reactor - GFR or LFR), demonstrate that FNRs:
- are able to exploit the full energy potential of uranium by extracting up to 100 times more energy than current technology from the same quantity of uranium;
- have the ability to "burn" (i.e. eradicate though nuclear transmutation in the reactor) the "minor actinides" produced in the fuel during reactor operation by recycling these minor actinides in fresh fuel, and in so doing significantly reduce quantities, heat production and (by factors of up to 1000) hazardous lifetime of the ultimate waste for disposal;
- attain safety levels at least equivalent to the highest levels attainable with Generation II and III reactors;
- eliminate proliferation risks by avoiding separation of weapon's grade fissile material at any point during the fuel cycle;
- can attain levelised electricity and heat production costs on a par with other low carbon energy systems.
- The refurbishment and/or design, construction and operation of infrastructures needed to support the design and/or operation of prototype and demonstrator FNRs, in particular
- fuel fabrication facilities to develop and manufacture driver fuel and minor actinide bearing fuels for the prototype and demonstrator;
- facilities for the development of materials and components, code validation and qualification, and design and validation of safety systems.
- A comprehensive programme of R&D supporting all aspects of the design, construction and operation of the prototype, demonstrator and support infrastructure. Cross-cutting R&D will also benefit current reactors in terms of maintaining safety and radiation protection, increasing performance and competitiveness, ensuring lifetime management, and implementing solutions for waste management.
Thanks to past and current R&D efforts in Europe, considerable experience in the various technology options has already been acquired, and international cooperation in basic R&D is on-going as part of the Generation-IV International Forum (GIF). From this solid basis collaborative programmes of demonstration plants (prototypes and demonstrators) will emerge, supported by dedicated R&D programmes and infrastructures. Owing to the length of time before commercial deployment, the EII on sustainable nuclear energy is possible only with significant public funding. International cooperation for building prototypes and demonstrators might provide a wider financing base in some cases. In the following actions, pilot plants aim at establishing technical performance, demonstrators are the last pre-commercial step to demonstrate the performance and reliability of all key aspects of the technology, and prototype reactors, the most advanced stage prior to commercial deployment, are the first to be coupled to the electricity grid in order to demonstrate economic viability.
- Design, construction and operation of a prototype sodium fast reactor (SFR) coupled to the grid
- Finalise the design and obtain a license for the construction of the SFR prototype in the range 250-600 MWe, with start of operation by 2020;
- Demonstrate the safety of SFR technologies by analysis and experiment, in particular by prevention and mitigation of severe accidents, including those linked to sodium;
- Demonstrate the economic competitiveness and identify key areas for further cost reduction of SFR technologies (improvements in operability through monitoring, inspection and fuel handling, design options, material selection, increase of fuel burn-up) by return of experience from operation between 2020 and 2030;
- Demonstrate, by return of experience, significantly reduced long-term burden of ultimate radioactive waste for final geological disposal through recycling and nuclear transformation in the reactor of all actinides (including minor) extracted from spent nuclear fuel.
- Design, construction and operation of a demonstrator (not coupled to the grid) of alternative technology, either gas or lead cooled fast reactor (GFR or LFR)
- Perform comparative assessment of GFR and LFR technologies by 2012 and selection of reactor system for the demonstrator;
- Finalise the design and obtain a license for the construction of the demonstrator in the range 50-100 MWth, with start of operation by 2020;
- Demonstrate the technical performance and reliability of the alternative technology and identification of design modifications for overall performance improvement;
- Demonstrate safety and waste minimisation performance by return of experience 2020-30 and identify further improvements in safety design and fuel cycle;
- Based on the return of experience 2020-30, prepare the design for a prototype;
- In the case of GFR, extend the range of applications of nuclear energy beyond the production of electricity through developing high temperature heat supply capabilities.
- Supporting infrastructures for prototype and demonstrator
- Design the necessary fuel fabrication workshops for the SFR prototype and alternative demonstrator reactor, dedicated to uranium-plutonium driver and minor actinide bearing fuels;
- Obtain licenses for construction of the fuel fabrication workshops and start the operation by 2017 in order to produce fuel for the prototype and demonstrator reactors at the time of their start-up in 2020;
- Design, construct or upgrade a consistent suite of experimental facilities for component design, system development and code qualification and validation that are essential in order to perform design and safety analyses in support of the prototype and demonstrator reactors (hot cells, gas loops, liquid metal loops, irradiation facilities, \xe2\x80\xa6)
- Cross-cutting R&D programme
- Basic and applied research to support the activities foreseen in the actions above. In particular, the development of simulation and testing tools and associated methodologies to support the design and operational assessment of the reactors and support facilities. This will draw heavily on current R&D programmes, but efforts in all domains need to be intensified and focused on the EII objectives. Much of this research will be linked to nearer term R&D activities of relevance for current nuclear technology, e.g. design and operational safety and radiation protection, waste management, component ageing and lifetime management, materials science and multiscale modelling of material behaviour (structural materials, fuels, cladding), code development and qualification, severe accident management, etc.
Indicative costs (2010-2020)
Prototype sodium fast reactor
€2-4 billionIncludes basic detaileddesign, licensing, testing and qualification of components, construction, andstart-up operations, depending on the electrical power (250-600 MWe) and technical options
Demonstrator alternative fast reactor
€600-800 million19 (50-100 MWth)
Fuel fabrication workshops: €600 million (U-Pu fuel) + €250-450 million (prototype fuel)
Cross-cutting R&D programme
€1-2 billionEquivalent to €100-200 /year over 10 years
€ 5-10 billion
This reflects the total sum of the required public and private investments.
Indicative Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
- Demonstration of the safety and security credentials of the fast neutron reactors by obtaining a license to enable operation of the prototype and demonstrator reactors to start in 2020.
- By 2020, through the operation of the fuel fabrication workshops:
- production of up to several tonnes of driver fuel per year;
- development of high performance minor actinide bearing fuel with a production of up to tens of kilograms per year.
- Demonstration, through the operation of the prototype and demonstrator reactors starting in 2020, of the long-term sustainability of nuclear energy by exploiting at least 50% of the energy content of uranium and significantly reducing the thermal load and lifetime (by up to a factor of 1000) of ultimate high-level nuclear waste for final disposal.
- Demonstration by 2025 that the levelised cost for the electricity generation using future nuclear reactors is comparable with costs of other sources of low carbon electricity (e.g. Generation-III levelised cost of electricity generation).