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Do you see any pair of design considerations for advanced reactors that may pose a dilemma—may be challenging to reconcile or perhaps even mutually exclusive?

Dan Yurman's picture
Editor & Publisher NeutronBytes, a blog about nuclear energy

Publisher of NeutronBytes, a blog about nuclear energy online since 2007.  Consultant and project manager for technology innovation processes and new product / program development for commercial...

  • Member since 2018
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  • Apr 27, 2021

There are host of design considerations for advanced nuclear: safety obviously, but also simplicity and ease of construction, supply chain availability, back-end fuel cycle sustainability, security and safeguards, flexibility in deployment and application, etc. Do you see any pair of design considerations for advanced reactors that may pose a dilemma—may be challenging to reconcile or perhaps even mutually exclusive?

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For three of the leading types of advanced designs, HTGR (TRISO fuel or graphite block), sodium cooled (fuel in the sodium or heat pumps), and molten salt (fuel in the salt or in fuel assemblies) each of them will place demands on fuel fabrication suppliers that will be complex and expensive to meet their requirements. The availability of fuels for these designs will be a key factor in time to market for each of them. 

The U.S. government is investing in development of high assay low enriched fuels (HALEU), e.g., greater than 5% and less than 20% U235 level of enrichment. The market for these fuels may develop slowly as the time to market for many advanced designs is at least in the latter part of this decade or the early-to-mid 2030s. Advanced reactors, including advanced SMRs, may develop more quickly in other countries in which case export opportunities could appear for U.S. based HALEU type fuel supplies.

2Fully Ceramic Microencapsulated (FCMTM) fuel pellets, an advanced and proprietary reactor fuel designed by Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) for their Micro Modular Reactor (MMRTM). Funded through the Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI)

Management of spent fuel from advanced reactors will also be an issue as neither the US nor many other countries have yet to successfully provide permanent solutions for even LWR spent fuel. 

Eventually, the use of interim storage sites and reprocessing of spent fuel or advanced designs that can use it, will provide a disposition pathway for spent fuel from advanced designs for some, but not all of the volume that will be produced over the next 100 years.

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