IAEA Technical Working Group on Fast Reactors Reviews Status and Progress in Technology Development

Participants in the 48th TWG-FR meeting held at the Institute of Physics and Power Engineering (IPPE) on 25-29 May 2015 in Obninsk, Russian Federation. (Photo: IPPE)

2015-07-22 | At their recent meeting in Obninsk, Russian Federation, the members of the IAEA Technical Working Group on Fast Reactors (TWG-FR) discussed latest developments in fast reactor technology, shared information about ongoing activities in different Member States and reviewed the current status and progress of IAEA activities in the area of fast reactors. Experts from 24 Member States and three international organizations participated in the 48th TWG-FR meeting.

The TWG-FR consists in a group of experts who reflect a global network of excellence and expertise in the area of advanced technologies and R&D for fast reactors and sub-critical hybrids. Its members meet annually and provide advice and support to the implementation of the IAEA's programme on fast reactor technology.

"We have seen significant achievements and new initiatives in the area of fast reactors”, said Stefano Monti, Scientific Secretary of the TWG-FR and Section Head of the IAEA Nuclear Power Technology Development Section (NPTDS). "Interest in fast reactor technology is increasing in both countries with active programmes and those that have not yet started a programme but are considering fast reactors in the long term, as a necessary step towards a more sustainable nuclear energy deployment."

In Russia, the BN-600 sodium-cooled fast reactor (SFR) has shown an impressive operational performance by reaching an 86% load factor last year, while the Russian light water reactor (LWR) fleet reaches 82% on average. The multipurpose sodium-cooled fast neutron research reactor (MBIR), to be built in Dimitrovgrad, obtained the construction license from the Russian government. The BN-800 SFR will be commissioned at the beginning of 2016.

In India, commissioning of the prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam is expected to start by the end of September 2015. The China experimental fast reactor (CEFR), which was connected to the grid in 2011, reached 100% power in December 2014. In France, the conceptual design phase for the advanced sodium technological reactor for industrial demonstration (ASTRID) is planned to be completed by the end of 2015. In addition, other participating countries reported promising and progressing activities in FR development.

IAEA activities since the last TWG-FR meeting included, amongst others, the continuing development of safety design criteria and guidelines for innovative sodium-cooled fast reactors (SFR), in cooperation with IAEA Department of Nuclear Safety and Security and the Generation IV International Forum (GIF).

The proceedings of the IAEA International Conference on Fast Reactors and Related Fuel Cycles — FR13, held in France in 2013, were published and the IAEA acknowledges the useful contributions provided by the TWG-FR members.

A new IAEA collaborative project (CRP) on radioactive release from a hypothetical severe accident in a SFR has been launched. Participants also discussed the status of several technical documents and studies concerning an experimental facilities compendium for liquid metal cooled fast neutron systems.

The TWG-FR acknowledged progress in developing the specifications for the innovative SFR basic principles simulator and recommended to make it flexible so that it would be a useful education tool for young nuclear engineers and researchers. They also emphasized the importance of verification and validation activities in modeling and simulation carried out by IAEA CRPs and welcomed new CRP proposals on the Monju SFR Turbine Test in Japan, the CEFR in China, the Fast Flux Test Facility (FFTF) in the USA and on heavy liquid metal cooled technology.

Other IAEA activities include the IAEA fast reactor knowledge preservation initiative, with a newly created portal, and the organization of an IAEA workshop, to be held jointly with the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy, in September 2016, on physics and technology of innovative nuclear energy systems for sustainable development.