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Non-nuclear energy

Evolutionary safety concepts

Fission and radiation protection

For nuclear power installations that could be built during the next few decades there is a need to explore new concepts that offer longer term safety benefits and are more competitive in the energy market. These concepts should provide improved performance, better management of radioactive waste and the use of fissile materials and improved safety. More information on some of the new concepts can be accessed here . Other designs will be evolutions of current designs.

In evolutionary Light Water Reactor (LWR) designs there is an emphasis on design simplification and enhanced man-machine interfaces, which should further reduce the risk of severe accidents. Some of the innovative reactors rely mainly on passive prevention and mitigation features and systems.

Passive safety systems can enhance the safety of the plant and use only natural forces, such as gravity, natural circulation, and compressed gas. No pumps, fans, motors or chillers are used in passive safety sub-systems. Passive safety systems can include safety injection, residual heat removal, and containment cooling. Passive safety systems are significantly simpler than conventional safety systems and do not require the large network of safety support systems needed in current nuclear plants, such as AC power, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and cooling water systems etc. These simplifications to plant systems, combined with increased plant operating margins, reduce the amount of intervention required by the operator and significantly reduce the capital cost of the plant.

Some European research is devoted to the investigation of phenomena associated with the use of passive systems for decay heat removal both from the core region and from the containment building, and for safety measures, such as depressurisation and injection, in some of the evolutionary LWR designs. In addition, the coupling of different neutronics and thermal-hydraulics computer codes, needed for this purpose, will enable to improvements and validation of the numerical models used in the existing thermal-hydraulics computer codes, and extrapolates the results of small-scale experiments towards full-scale reactor applications. Another area of interest in research in evolutionary reactors is the use of high burnup and MOX fuel.

A final objective of research is to determine the future European irradiation needs in Materials Testing Reactors (MTRs) for materials and fuel for current and future reactors, medical applications, neutron beams for research, neutron radiography and isotope production. Most of the MTRs in Europe will be more than 40 years old by 2010 and new facilities need to be planned and built to support both new reactor design and current reactor safety assessments.