Posted by Suzanna Hinson

Toshiba may still be struggling with financial difficulties but other nuclear developers are pushing ahead with progress. This month GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Advanced Reactor Concepts LLC (ARC) have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on progress a joint SMR design.

Both GE Hitachi and ARC have extensive experience with advanced nuclear, specifically sodium-cooled fast reactors. Both of their reactor designs are based on the same prototype, the EBR-II at Argonne National Laboratory Idaho, which ran successfully for more than 30 years. Despite the similarity between their reactors, they have been designed for very different purposes. The ARC-100 is for efficient and flexible electricity generation, while operating for up to 20 years without the need for refuelling. On the other hand, PRISM has primarily been focused on closing the fuel cycle by using spent fuel and other “waste” and therefore is designed to refuel every 12 to 24 months.

Their collaboration will initially be aimed for deployment in Canada. The companies will pursue a preliminary regulatory review through Canada’s Vendor Design Review process, building on earlier technology licensing success in the USA. Sodium cooled reactors are one of the most advanced technologies so most likely to be able to replace the current, ageing, outdated fleet of reactors.

Comments

  1. Chaeles Barton says:

    There are problems with sodium cooled fast reactors. first Fast Reactors require a lger invantory ofFissionable Isotopes, as nuch as 10 times larger than thermal reactors. The large fissionable invintory makes fast reactors significantly less scalable than thermal reactors. This in tern means that sodium cooled reactors are not going to be major players in the post carbon energy picture. Thgey are useful tools for disposing of Plutonium and other actinides. Other problems of sodium cooled reactors, include the safety issue posed by the use of sodium in these reactors. Sodium burns when it comes into contact with Oxygen nbd water. There are material durability issues which are posed by the perobvlems created by the neutreopn bombsrdment of structural materials. I do not object to the building and sales of fast reactors, but the do not hold promise for solving out global post-carbon energy issues.

    • Jeremy Owston says:

      I agree with the above comment. The UK PFR project established the entire technology suit required and closed the fuel cycle for nuclear. the project was undoubtedly a huge technical success with a reliable reactor design. The work which followed to try and develop the commercial reactor ultimately showed that the end cost would be roughly 15% higher than a straight through cycle with geological disposal of fuel. Therefore to make sense fuel costs would have to rise significantly which is unlikely considering the abundance of uranium.

      Certainly for the short to medium term sodium cooled reactors do not make economic sense, by which time they are likely to be overtaken by a Moltex type salt cooled reactor which performs the same closing of the fuel cycle job but at a fraction of the cost.

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