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Central Design Team (CDT) for a Fast-spectrum Transmutation Experimental Facility

Final Report Summary - CDT (Central design team (CDT) for a fast-spectrum transmutation experimental facility)

Executive summary:

CDT is a European Atomic Energy community (EURATOM) Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) project aiming to design a fast spectrum transmutation facility (FASTEF) able to demonstrate efficient transmutation and associated technology through a system working in subcritical mode, namely the accelerator driven system (ADS), and/or critical mode; it is thus the next step after the FP6 IP-Eurotrans project.

At this project, funded under the collaborative projects (CP) funding scheme in the FP7 of Euratom, participated 19 institutions from all over Europe.

The CDT project is concentrated on the design of Myrrha, being a cornerstone of the European sustainable nuclear industrial iniative (ESNII) just launched under the SET-plan. Myrrha will act as a flexible fast spectrum irradiation in support of the different fast spectrum technologies defined in ESNII, the European technology pilot plant (ETPP) for lead fast reactor (LFR) and demonstration facility for ADS and transmutation. In this way, Myrrha is a key element in the roadmap for a sustainable nuclear energy development towards a decarbonisation of the European energy mix by 2050.

At the end of CDT, a revised design of Myrrha is delivered for the core, the primary system and the balance of plant. This design allows starting the preparation for the front end engineering design work.

Project context and objectives:

The survey of energy resources produced by the World Energy Council since 1934, indicates in its 2007 edition that conventional commercial fossil fuels, encompassing coal, oil and natural gas, remain the dominant resources for the world energy supply. Compared to the 2002 data for the proved recoverable reserves, oil and natural gas 2005 reserves increased somewhat, while those of coal declined slightly. Within the total oil reserves, both shale oil and extra-heavy oil reserves are included. Nevertheless, one observes in this report that the production of all sources has drastically increased (approximately 20 %) due to a larger demand in particular in large emerging countries. Even for uranium there is a production increase (around 16 %) due to increased power capacity, i.e. upgrading of existing nuclear power plants (NPPs) and construction of new ones.

On the nuclear power generation side, one observes all over the world a 'renaissance' of interest for nuclear power. Thirty five plants are currently under construction, most of them in Asia:

1. the United States of America (USA) have defined a new framework supporting nuclear power
2. China has decided to accelerate the development of its nuclear fleet, with 6 plants under construction and 29 planned (i.e. approved and funded) and a total of 86 announced
3. India which currently operates 17 plants, is constructing 6 reactors and is planning an additional 10, with 9 announced
4. Japan, which has 55 plants, is constructing 2 and planning 11 in addition
5. South Korea, which has 20 plants, is building 3 and planning 5 in addition
6. Russia, which operates 31 reactors, is building 7 reactors, planning an additional 8 and has announced 20 in addition
7. emerging countries are also planning to develop nuclear power
8. finally, in Europe, Finland and France are building a new generation-III reactor (EPR) and the Baltic States and Poland plan to build jointly a new plant (Ignalina 3) to replace the old 'reaktor bolshoy moshchnosti kanalniy' (RBMK) units. The 'White paper' in the United Kingdom (UK) supports the renewal of the fleet to avoid an energy crisis. Among the countries which joined the European Union (EU) since 2004, a second reactor has been connected to the grid in 2007 (Romania), six are planned (Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia) and eight have been proposed (Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania and Slovenia).

Nuclear energy has become a very competitive industrial stake worldwide. The EU should be a major player in this industrial competition, as 35 % of its electricity is produced currently by nuclear energy. It also masters the third generation nuclear systems and participates in the generation IV international forum to develop more sustainable nuclear systems.

Current forecasts, i.e. the world energy outlook, World Energy Council (WEC) International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and world energy technology outlook (WETO) indicate that primary energy consumption will increase significantly by 2030, despite potential improvements in energy efficiency. The share of electricity in the energy mix will increase more rapidly than the share of other energies, even more when carbon-avoiding technologies are implemented. Security of energy supply is a major concern for the world and for Europe in particular. Today Europe imports 50 % of its energy and with current energy and transport policies, this dependence would increase up to 65 % by 2030; reliance on imports of gas would increase from 57 % to 84 %, and reliance on imports of oil would increase from 82 % to 93 %.

In addition to the foreseen growth of Europe dependence on fossil fuels, there is an increasing risk of supply failure. Fossil fuel reserves, particularly those of crude oil, are localised in a few areas of the world. Political, economical, and environmental factors often force volatile and expensive fuel prices.

Even though nuclear power is generally consistent with sustainable development goals, further expansion of nuclear power faces public concern on nuclear waste management and political issues on the potential proliferation of nuclear weapons. Another challenge is to further strengthen the high level of nuclear safety, while improving the economic competitiveness of nuclear power, in particular, to assure profitability in open and deregulated electricity markets.

Presently the EU relies for 35 % of its electricity on nuclear fission energy leading to the annual production of 2500 t/y of used fuel, containing 25 t of Plutonium, 3.5 t of minor actinides (MA), namely neptunium (Np), americium (Am) and curium (Cm), and 3 t of long-lived fission products (LLFPs). This MA and LLFP stocks need to be managed in appropriate way. The used fuel reprocessing followed by the geological disposal or the direct geological disposal are today the envisaged solutions depending on national fuel cycle options and waste management policies. Required time scale for the geological disposal exceeds our accumulated technological knowledge and this poses problems of public acceptance. The partitioning and transmutation (P&T) has been pointed out in numerous studies and more recently in the frame of the generation IV initiative as the strategy that can relax the constraints on the geological disposal, and reduce its monitoring period to technological and manageable time scales. Therefore a special effort has been initiated at European level thanks to the effort of the European Commission (EC) and some major European research institutions and industries to integrate P&T and advanced fuel cycles based on critical and/or subcritical fast spectrum transmuters, in order to assess the technical and economical feasibility of this waste management option, which could ease the development of a deep geological storage.

Despite the diversity between the European member states concerning nuclear power and envisaged fuel cycle policy ranging from the once through without reprocessing to the double-strata fuel cycle ending with the ADS as the ultimate burner or generation IV fast critical reactors multi-recycling all transuranic (TRUs), the P&T issues require an integrated effort at the European level and even worldwide. Even when considering the phase out of nuclear energy the combination of P&T and dedicated burners, such as ADS technologies but this time at European regional scale, would allow to meet the objectives of both countries type the one phasing out the nuclear energy as well as the country favouring the continuity of the nuclear energy development towards the deployment of new fast spectrum systems.

Presently within the Pateros project the EU institutions working on the P&T research are working out a roadmap to quantify indicators for decision making, such as the proportion of waste to be channelled to this mode of management, but also issues relating to safety, radiation protection, transport, secondary wastes, impact on geological disposal, costs, and scheduling. These elements are worked out on the basis of the extensive knowledge already acquired since the FP4 and continued during the FP5 within the series of 14 projects monitored under the thematic network ADOPT that resulted during the FP6 into two integrated projects namely Europart dealing with partitioning and Eurotrans dealing with ADS design for transmutation, ADS coupling experiments, development of advanced fuel for transmutation, research and development (R&D) activities related to the heavy liquid metal technology and innovative structural materials and nuclear data measurement. The separation activities of the Europart project are continued in the FP7 (first call) through the project Acsept. One of the major results of the Eurotrans integrated project is the delivery of the preliminary design file of the experimental ADS facility intended to demonstrate the ADS concept and enabling the efficient demonstration of minor actinides transmutation and on the other hand this facility can act as a fast spectrum irradiation facility in Europe.

The preliminary roadmap sketched in Pateros for the implementation of P&T of a large part of the high level nuclear wastes in Europe indicates the need of demonstration of the feasibility of several installations at an 'engineering' level. The respective research and development activities could be arranged in four so called 'building blocks':

1. demonstrate the capability to process a sizable amount of spent fuel from commercial power plants, i.e. light water reactor (LWR) in order to separate plutonium (Pu) and MA
2. demonstrate the capability to fabricate at semi-industrial level the dedicated fuel needed to load a dedicated transmuter
3. make available one or more transmuters
4. provide a specific installation for processing of the dedicated fuel unloaded from the transmuter, which can be of a different type than the one used to process the original spent fuel unloaded from the commercial power plants (i.e. LWR), and fabrication of new dedicated fuel.

After more than a decade of exploratory research in the field of P&T and advanced nuclear systems, and thanks to the launch in 2007 of the sustainable nuclear energy technology platform (SNE-TP), the European research nuclear fission community is joining its efforts to set-up a strategic research agenda (SRA) and developing an associated roadmap of deployment strategy for achieving a sustainable nuclear fission energy. In the preliminary version of its SRA, the SNE-TP community indicated the need for Europe of a demonstration of ADS concept (thereby responding to the need for the development of transmuters in the P&T roadmap) as well as the need for Europe of a fast spectrum irradiation facility enabling Europe to be in a front-runner position for both advanced options for waste management as well as for generation IV reactor development.

In the CDT project the partners are to further develop the engineering design of a first-step experimental device based on the resulting Myrrha experimental ADS facility (XT-ADS) of the FP6 Eurotrans project that may serve both as a test-bed for transmutation and as a fast spectrum irradiation facility, operating as a subcritical ADS, and/or as a critical reactor. The project team will also define the new R&D activities needed to aid the detailed design and the construction of such a facility. The CDT team will conduct a detailed analysis of the site specifications and regulatory requirements to host such a facility. The CDT team will also monitor the progress of advanced nuclear systems design and R&D activities underway for the construction of a next-step European transmutation demonstration facility with minor-actinide fuel in synergy with teams that are engaged in the feasibility study of an associated pilot scale chemical separation facility and an advanced fuel production unit in Europe.

The proposed project CDT will be relying in terms of R&D support activities on the Getmat FP7 (first call) project and the Fairfuels FP7 (second call) project. Information will be exchanged with the FP7 project Eufrat on nuclear data and the FP7 project ESFR on sodium fast reactor development as well as the FP6 ELSY lead fast reactor project.

The design activities for an ADS within CDT project need to be seen in the larger context of partitioning and transmutation where the FP7 project Acsept on partitioning also plays an important role.

Project results:

The research and technological development activities were structured in four technical work packages (WPs):

1. WP1: Definition of specifications and detailed work programme of FASTEF
2. WP2: Design of the FASTEF in subcritical and critical mode
3. WP3: Plant requirements
4. WP4: Key issues towards realisation.

WP1: Definition of specifications and detailed work programme of FASTEF, developed by the Studiecentrum voor Kernenergie /Centre d'étude de l'Energie Nucléaire (SCK CEN) L%
Building up on the former design activities accomplished in the previous FPs, namely PDS-XADS in FP5 and continued in FP6 IP-Eurotrans, it is proposed to take as starting point the design work performed for Myrrha/XT-ADS. The purpose of this WP is to analyse and review the Myrrha/XT-ADS design choices made in view of the different objectives set forward for Myrrha-FASTEF. Although by the start of the CDT team IP-Eurotrans will not be completely finished (initially foreseen at the end of March 2009 and now extended up to March 2010), most deliverables of DM1-Design of IP-Eurotrans will be provided during the first six month period of CDT which corresponds to the period of WP1 (FASTEF definition). Since the technical information will be available sooner than the actual deliverables, the CDT team will already integrate the technical information available at that moment within IP-Eurotrans. During the WP1 period (lasting for the first six project months), a continuous interaction and exchange of information with IP-Eurotrans will be performed. This exchange of information is largely facilitated by the fact that the main actors in CDT will be the same as in domain DM1 of IP-Eurotrans.

One major difference in objectives of Myrrha-FASTEF compared to Myrrha/XT-ADS is the fact that the FASTEF needs to be able to operate as a subcritical system as well as a critical system. Both operation modes have to be foreseen in the design from the beginning.

The first objective of FASTEF is to be operated as a high-flux and flexible fast spectrum irradiation facility. Such a facility will therefore be able to host several experimental devices and loops, in support of material and fuel research for different innovative reactor systems and fusion material research and for the production of radio isotopes for medical purposes. To respond to this objective, attractive irradiation conditions for the experimental devices and rigs need to be assured.

Secondly, Myrrha-FASTEF needs to demonstrate the ADS technology for transmutation and demonstrate efficient transmutation in such a facility and in this way be able to serve as test-bed for transmutation.

Thirdly, Myrrha-FASTEF, as it will be designed also to be able to operate in a critical mode, will contribute to the demonstration of the LFR technology.

Given the different objectives, a detailed definition of characteristics will result from a critical analysis of how and to which extent one can respond to the different objectives for FASTEF. The global analysis of design choices will then be based on the detailed definition of the characteristics of the Myrrha-FASTEF.

This WP is divided in three separate tasks. The first is devoted to the input and review of design choices and its methodology for Myrrha/XT-ADS. The second task is related to the design modifications due to the introduction of a critical operation mode. In the third task, an analysis will be made to which extent Myrrha/FASTEF can respond to LFR demo objectives. At the end of this work package, a definition of specifications and design choices together with a detailed work programme for FASTEF will be presented.

WP2: Design of the FASTEF in subcritical and critical mode (Ansaldo)

The starting point for CDT will be the design provided at the end of IP-Eurotrans, where the design of a fast spectrum facility, working in subcritical mode coupled to a proton accelerator, has been well studied. In IP-Eurotrans, the conceptual design of Myrrha draft two was taken as starting point and it was critically reviewed which led to some significant conceptual design modifications. Dedicated parts (the primary system, the core and the windowless target) were then further detailed to obtain an advanced design. Other components will only reach a conceptual design level at the end of IP-Eurotrans. The purpose of this work package is to obtain an advanced level of design for all these components at the end of the project.

Taking into account the outcome of WP1, the design of the FASTEF operating in subcritical mode is further detailed and complemented starting from the available Myrrha/XT-ADS design studied in the framework of the FP6 IP-Eurotrans project. This means explicitly that both operation modes (subcritical and critical) are incorporated in the design from the very beginning.

The consequences of FASTEF working in critical mode on the MYRRHA/XT-ADS design and on the operational parameters will be implemented. The safety analysis of working in subcritical mode will be updated after implementing the modifications for critical mode operation. A preliminary safety analysis for critical mode operation will be performed.

Furthermore, progress of some specific accelerator design related issues will be made with regard to the status in Myrrha/XT-ADS. In particular for what concerns beam dump and beam line.

And finally, a clear definition and conceptual design of a limited set of experimental devices for the FASTEF (working in subcritical or in critical mode) will be performed.

This WP will concentrate on the primary and secondary system, including decay heat removal (DHR), spallation loop, experimental devices, safety, beam line transport and coupling of the accelerator with the reactor.

WP3: Plant requirements (EA)

After a careful revision of the information coming from FP5 and FP6, this WP will be aimed to perform the required auxiliaries or 'balance of plant' studies. These studies will comprise all the FASTEF facility infrastructures, except the primary and secondary systems, spallation loop, accelerator and the beam line.

This study will result in a comprehensive functional description complemented with the characteristics, and main technical requirements, of the auxiliaries to fulfil all plant functions and requirements for both the subcritical and the critical options as well as in an overall plant layout. In this study site specific conditions related to the Mol-site will be taken into account.

Every resultant deliverable will contain a description of the work, conceptual process and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs) and drawings, required calculations as a conceptual specification of the involved systems (except for the overall layout, which will only include description and drawings).

This WP will also include a specific task on instrumentation and control (I&C) for subcritical and critical mode operation. In this task, the necessary instrumentation for the nuclear island and accelerator will be identified. The necessary reactor control and scram logic and interlocks will be also defined.

WP4: Key issues towards realisation (SCK CEN)

Several key issues can hinder the future realisation of the facility and are addressed in this WP:

1. fuel design, procurement, demonstration and qualification
2. global cost of the facility and financing scheme
3. licensing procedures in both modes of operation
4. operation mode analysis, R&D needs and activities.

The issue of fuel design, procurement, demonstration and qualification is a key issue towards realisation, since at this moment the possibilities for fuel procurement, demonstration and qualification are limited in the world. It is therefore necessary to identify fuel procurement routes which are compatible with the fuel design for FASTEF on one hand and on the other hand identify the fuel demonstration and qualification programme and associated irradiations in MTRs.

Following the design changes in WP2 and the more detailed information on the plant requirements in WP3, a review of the cost estimate of the facility is mandatory. In this analysis, also an update of the prices for raw materials and manufacturing costs needs to be performed. Having established the investment as well as the operation cost of the facility, the CDT will be establishing a financing scheme for the realisation of FASTEF and further on for its exploitation as a research facility.

A consultation with the Belgian regulatory bodies will be performed to determine the several steps in the licensing procedure. An analysis will be performed of the main items relevant for the safety assessment report. In this analysis, attention will be given to the aspects specific for subcritical and critical mode operation. Also, the optimal sequence for licensing in terms of sequence of subcritical and critical phases will be studied taking into account all boundary conditions.

At the end of the project, an analysis of the operation mode (subcritical, critical) and its impact on the objectives of FASTEF will be performed on the information available at the end of the project.

Based on the R&D needs in the aid of design and construction of FASTEF identified during the course of the three year project and after interaction with research programmes in adjacent domains, a final set of identified R&D needs will be drafted. CDT will also monitor the progress of advanced systems design and R&D activities underway for the construction of a next-step European transmutation demonstration facility with minor-actinide fuel in synergy with teams that are engaged in the feasibility study of an associated pilot-scale chemical separation facility and an advanced fuel production unit in Europe.

Potential impact:

The CDT-project is concentrated on the design of Myrrha, being a cornerstone of the ESNII just launched under the SET plan. Myrrha will act as a flexible fast spectrum irradiation in support of the different fast spectrum technologies defined in ESNII, the ETPP for LFR and demonstration facility for ADS and transmutation. In this way, Myrrha is a key element in the roadmap for a sustainable nuclear energy development towards a decarbonisation of the European energy mix by 2050.

List of websites:

Project coordinator: Prof. Dr Peter Baeten, SCK CEN, Boeretang 200, BE-2400 Mol, Belgium