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Technology Gap Analysis on Sodium-Cooled Reactor Fuel-Handling System Supporting Advanced Burner Reactor Development

Yoshitaka Chikazawa, Mitchell Farmer, Christopher Grandy

Nuclear Technology / Volume 165 / Number 3 / March 2009 / Pages 270-292

Technical Paper / Fission Reactors /

The goals of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) are to expand the use of nuclear energy to meet increasing global energy demand in an environmentally sustainable manner, to address nuclear waste management issues without making separated plutonium, and to address nonproliferation concerns. The advanced burner reactor (ABR) is a fast reactor concept which supports the GNEP fuel cycle system. Since the integral fast reactor (IFR) and advanced liquid-metal reactor (ALMR) projects were terminated in 1994, there has been no major development on sodium-cooled fast reactors in the United States. Therefore, in support of the GNEP fast reactor program, the history of sodium-cooled reactor development was reviewed to support the initiation of this technology within the United States and to gain an understanding of the technology gaps that may still remain for sodium fast reactor technology.

The fuel-handling system is a key element of any fast reactor design. The major functions of this system are to receive, test, store, and then load fresh fuel into the core; unload from the core; then clean, test, store, and ship spent fuel. Major requirements are that the system must be reliable and relatively easy to maintain. In addition, the system should be designed so that it does not adversely impact plant economics from the viewpoints of capital investment or plant operations. In this gap analysis, information on fuel-handling operating experiences in the following reactor plants was carefully reviewed: EBR-I, SRE, HNPF, Fermi, SEFOR, FFTF, CRBR, EBR-II, DFR, PFR, Rapsodie, Phénix, Superphénix, KNK, SNR-300, Joyo, and Monju. The results of this evaluation indicate that a standardized fuel-handling system for a commercial fast reactor is yet to be established. However, in the past sodium-cooled reactor plants, most major fuel-handling components - such as the rotatable plug, in-vessel fuel-handling machine, ex-vessel fuel transportation cask, ex-vessel sodium-cooled storage, and cleaning stations - have accumulated satisfactory construction and operation experiences. In addition, two special issues for future development are described in this report: large capacity interim storage and transuranic-bearing fuel handling.

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