GIF and IAEA Discuss Safety Aspects of Sodium Cooled Fast Reactors
Dec 1, 2011
on Safety Aspects of Sodium Cooled Fast Reactors,
30 November - 1 December 2011, IAEA, Vienna, Austria
Sodium cooled Fast Reactors (SFRs) have been in operation for already 60 years. Today, countries such as France, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the USA, as well as the European Commission have active programmes using this technology. China started operation of a pilot SFR last year and connected it to the electricity grid this year.
Technical issues uniquely or particularly relevant to the safety of SFRs and sodium as a fast reactor coolant were the focus of a two day workshop held jointly by the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) and the IAEA’s INPRO and the Technical Working Group of Fast Reactors (TWGFR).
Experts from China, France, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, USA, the EC Joint Research Center (JRC) and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) discussed basic safety characteristics of fast spectrum reactors, issues associated with the use of sodium as a fast reactor coolant, historical experience with sodium fast reactor safety issues, proposed approaches to achieving SFR safety, and innovative design concepts.
Particular attention was paid to the safety implications of the lessons learned from the Fukushima-Daiichi accident on future areas of emphasis, as the next generation of SFRs is designed.
“Post Fukushima, people are quite worried about the safety of plants. People need to have confidence that reactors built on various technologies are safe”, said Mr Prabhat Kumar, Project Director of BHAVINI, a Government of India Enterprise, in Kalpakkam. “This requires robust design, experienced construction personnel, and competent fabricators so the plant can be safe. The ultimate goal has to be that operators cannot make mistakes irrespective of what happens, and the plant remains safe, irrespective of scenarios”, he added.
“This meeting offered a valuable opportunity for us to share technology features of SFRs. Exchanging information and experience gives us confidence in the design and safety methods. It has also been very important for India to get feedback from the international expert community on the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) currently being constructed in Kalpakkam”, said Mr P. Chellapandi, Director of the Nuclear and Safety Engineering Group at the Indira Ghandi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), India.
The workshop represents considerable progress towards outlining current gaps in SFR safety knowledge and summarizing what each country is currently doing in the areas of SFR safety while also looking at common approaches or remaining differences in safety philosophy and licensing strategies.
“There were interesting conclusions” explained Mr Randy Beatty, INPRO Group Leader. “One is that attention still needs to be put on emergency planning. Any design, regardless of how inherently safe it is, will require continued emphasis on being prepared in case of a severe accident and on attention to the community in which the reactor is located” Mr Beatty added. Also, there are advantages from a technical standpoint which would answer some of the issues associated with Fukushima, e.g. inherent or passive decay heat removal because of the high heat content of the sodium coolant even without active circulation.
These interesting issues show that the innovations that GEN IV reactors are providing will help make nuclear deployment for the future safer and more sustainable.
“The Joint Workshop on Safety Aspects of Sodium Cooled Fast Reactors is one of the finest and most productive examples of cooperation between GIF and IAEA/INPRO” emphasized Mr Harold McFarlane, Technical Director of GIF. “This second workshop was focused by the nuclear accident at Fukushima-Daiichi, with participants eager to share lessons learned as applied to advanced reactor design and siting. For GIF the timing was fortuitous, just days prior to the meeting of the Task Force on SFR Safety Design Criteria. Having the input of the Indian experience in the construction of PFBR provides additional insight into this important subject."
The Second Joint GIF – IAEA/INPRO Workshop on Safety Aspects of Sodium Cooled Fast Reactors was held at the IAEA on 30 November to 1 December 2011. Scientific Secretaries were S. Monti, NPTDS, and R. Beatty, INPRO.