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Next-generation Fast Reactors

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Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 192
Location: London, UK.

PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2006 12:53 am    Post subject: Next-generation Fast Reactors Reply with quote

If you want to see why politicians and engineers are in favour of new nuclear power stations have a look at an article in Scientific American, Dec 2005, pp 64-71. See
for an introduction. After that you have to pay.

It favours fast reactors burning U238 and other material as opposed to thermal reactors burning mainly uranium 235. These reactors have to use liquid metal to take out heat instead of water or gas.
The big benefit is that they can constantly recycle used fuel through the reactors and use up plutonium as well as U238. There is less high level waste and less chance of nuclear bomb material coming out. Also there is very little demand for more uranium ore because current reactors use very little of the total energy in U235. Fast reactors would use much more.

What this means is that arguments about limits to uranium ore lose their validity and EROEI calculations have to be completely different. They have to use the costs of recycling nuclear fuel instead of obtaining more ore and storing more waste.

There is another article in Sci Amer, Jan 2002, on the same subject. Also it is worth looking at New Scientist, 19.Feb.05, p48, for an article on the three adjacent reactors being developed in India to use fast reactor methods and to use some of their thorium as fuel as well as uranium. See
for an introduction.

These reactors would still take 10 years to develop in the UK. They have some similarity to the breeder reactor being phased out at Dounreay. I am still trying to work out if they are identical.

Yet another benefit of fast reactors is that they can be used to destroy existing bomb material by using it as fuel. There is an occasional report of the Americans helping the Russians to do this with surplus Russian plutonium.

All these benefits make fast reactors now look like a good idea if they can be made to work as descibed. Arguments about nuclear waste and lack of high-grade ores are not enough to stop this development.
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