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Integral Fast Reactor

  1. Feb 19, 2008 #1
    Does anyone know why this project lost its funding? From what I understand it was three years from being completed. The prototype EBR II which had tests conducted to verify the passive safety system were successful and then BAM funding is cut. Was it due to Chernobyl or Three Mile Island. I think I read that these test were performed a couple of weeks before Chernobyl.

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 19, 2008 #2
    Part of the Clinton adminstration's promises were to cut back funding for nuclear related programs. IFR got cut.
  4. Feb 21, 2008 #3

    Andrew Mason

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    There seem to be different views as to why Congress voted to cut funding. http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/bush/freprocessing.asp" [Broken] says that Congress was concerned about the proliferation risk:

    The Integral Fast Reactor concept envisioned that pyroprocessing spent fuel would take place in a facility adjacent to a reactor and some radioactive transuranium elements would remain mixed with the plutonium, making the otherwise separated plutonium less vulnerable to theft. The 62.5 megawatt-thermal (20 megawatt-electric) Experimental Breeder Reactor-II (EBR-II) used a prototype for testing Integral Fast Reactor fuel. The concept was highly uneconomical, however, and would have represented a significant proliferation risk because non-weapon states could have converted pyroprocessing facilities to produce and separate weapons-grade plutonium. DOE therefore terminated the Integral Fast Reactor program in September 1994, but it kept alive the pyroprocessing program by continuing reprocessing research using Experimental Breeder Reactor-II spent fuel.
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/reaction/interviews/till.html" [Broken] on the other hand, the head of Argonne's reactor development program for the IFR, says that the IFR fuel cycle presented a very low proliferation risk.

    Morbius may have something to say on this. I expect that the proliferation risk for the IFR was not well understood by Congress.

    In my view, the IFR had great potential. But it was probably ahead of its time, technologically and politically.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  5. Feb 23, 2008 #4


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    Certainly one single plant would be uneconomical because of all the R&D that goes into it.

    The argument about proliferation is spurious, because weapon states can develop the technology, and non-weapon states could also if they are able to obtain the technology from countries other than the US.

    Gore may have had more to do with undermining support for nuclear energy in the US than Clinton, but Clinton was certainly not supportive of nuclear. Hazel O'Leary was not a good choice for Sec of Energy. In fact, I was unimpressed by many in the Clinton cabinet, particularly those as SecEnergy.
  6. Apr 16, 2008 #5
    The EBR II project was nearly completed - it cost more to cancel the project than it would have cost to complete it. You can find the entire history of the EBR II by googling the following: S.M. Stacy, Idaho National Laboratory, Proving the Principle This will eventually lead you to about 24 chapters on the history of the Idaho National Laboratory that will include numerous details about EBR II and why it was cancelled. By the way, the EBR II has been totally dismantled, but they continued some of the fuel reprocessing projects.
    I have written a book "Total Energy Independence for the United States - A Twelve-Year Plan" extolling the benefits of the integral fast reactor in achieving oil independence and a hydrogen fuel infrastructure for the U.S, and for consuming most of the waste plutonium currently being stored in about 125 locations throughout the U.S. I used some of the information documented by S.M. Stacy in my book.
  7. Apr 16, 2008 #6


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    This has the same smell to it as Super-Phenix...

    I don't know much about the IFR, but what I know about it, sounds brilliant. I had a few courses on the pyro-processing techniques that were used there. As such, the argument of proliferation is, as usual, silly, because the knowledge is out there :smile:
    (this is like Carter being against the PUREX process, while you can read about it in a few books...).
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2008
  8. Oct 22, 2008 #7
    I am in debate and i was instructed by my teacher to find negative evidence on the IFR reactor. is there anything wrong with the reactor that stands out alot?
  9. Oct 22, 2008 #8
    Relative to the other types of reactors in current use, IFRs of the EBRII design are the safest reactors in the world at this time. The Russians have had a fast neutron reactor in continuous operation on their power grid since 1981. The world has about 290 reactor-years of experience with fast neutron reactors. See:

    The IFR negative that comes to mind first is that the "fuel reprocessing cell" is costly. However, the cost of creating huge water reserviors for cooling light water reactors is also costly. Considering the safety advantage in not having to transport highly radioactive fuels on our highways and railroads, I believe the fuel reprocessing cell is worth its cost.

    Another problem with metal-cooled reactors is that the liquid metals, particularly lead, used for cooling may cause problems with the piping used in the reactor. For example, liquid lead can leach some of the metal from the piping. I understand MIT has done research on the leaching problem with highly favorable results. MIT found that chromium and nickel alloys are very resistant to leaching.

    I would like to know if you have found anything else WRONG with the IFR.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2008
  10. Oct 23, 2008 #9
    What about the acutal cost, is it around $10bill for one reactor? more? less? i just need more info.
  11. Oct 23, 2008 #10
    The best estimate I can find on the cost of an IFR is $1.5 to $2 billion for a one-Gw(e) reactor if the reactors are mass-produced. In my book, I use the scenario of constructing 500 reactors at locations throughout the U.S. where there is an abundant supply of water. My thinking is that the water could be electrolyzed to produce hydrogen and steam used to drive the generators.

    The cost of the reactor will also vary if the operating fluid is a supercritical gas instead of steam. The use of a supercritical gas as the operating fluid practically eliminates the need for water. Water would be needed only for sanitation purposes and pyroprocessing of spent fuel.

    I am assuming that you are aware that the IFR can use our reprocessed nuclear waste for fuel. We have on hand enough "fuel" (nuclear waste and processed uranium) for the IFRs to produce all of the energy the U.S. will need for the next 1,000 years.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2008
  12. Oct 23, 2008 #11
    What i would really like to know is how much a standard IFR (sodium cooling, not mass produced, and still new) would cost. not any new versons, because this is all that the other teams are basically saying. also for a 1,700MW reactor
  13. Oct 24, 2008 #12
    There is no such thing as a "standard" 1.7GW(t) IFR - one must be designed and built. A 1.7GW(t) -(thermal) IFR would produce about one GW(e) - (electrical) output. Based on the Department of Energy's 10-year old estimate of $985 million to build a one GW(e) IFR reactor, the 1.5 to 2 billion dollar estimate I gave you earlier is approximately correct once the prototype is built, tested, and approved, taking inflation into account. The prototype one GW(e) IFR, estimating again, would cost about $5 to $10 billion to design, construct, test, and approve.

    The use of liquid sodium as the coolant in an IFR has inherent dangers. Sodium, when exposed to air will burn; exposure of sodium to water in the presence of oxygen can cause an explosion. The Monju IFR in Japan had such an accident. No one was injured, but the reactor had to be shut down. Liquid lead is the coolant of choice because of its shielding characteristics and higher operating temperature.

    If you are debating the disadvantages of the IFR relative to the other types of reactors, you definitely have an uphill battle.
  14. Oct 24, 2008 #13
    Thank you for all the information, but what if you look at it in a perspective of IFR against all other alternate energy (solar, wind, biofuels) instead of against other reactors? Does that change anything?
  15. Oct 24, 2008 #14


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    Show me a place with cities and industries and so on where, say, more than 75% of the electricity has been reliably provided by alternatives, for at least a few years.
  16. Oct 24, 2008 #15
    (Originally Posted by Captainjf
    Thank you for all the information, but what if you look at it in a perspective of IFR against all other alternate energy (solar, wind, biofuels) instead of against other reactors? Does that change anything?)

    The amount of power that will be required in the U.S. in the future will be immense. To provide the needed power with wind turbines, solar, etc. is unrealistic. It would require 400 2.5 MW wind turbines to equal the power output of one 1GW(e) IFR - assuming that the wind turbines get enough wind to produce their maximum output. One-eighth of the surface of the U.S. would have to be covered with solar cells to meet the nations power needs - and then only when the sun is shining. What makes matters worse is that solar cells, when they are spent, are slightly radioactive - another disposal problem.

    A 0.5GW(e) "clean coal" plant produces 125,000 tons of ash and 165,000 tons of sludge (from the stack scrubbers) in one year. The ash and sludge contain arsenic, cadmium, mercury and ... . The fly ash from the stacks contain 100 times more radioactivity than the air near a compliant nuclear reactor. Many times, the sludge is allowed to seep into the ground, contaminating the ground water for miles around. All of this is before we consider the CO2 output.

    IFRs are reliable and their output is constant for 30 to 60 years, regardless of the climate, and the cost of mass-produced IFRs per kWh produced will be less than $1,000. Today, the cheapest source of electricity is nuclear - as low as 2 cents per kWh. The IFR would produce about 1,700 pounds of waste per year and it would be "safe" in 200 to 300 years as opposed to 10,000 to 200,000 years for the light water reactors.

    In the future, the cost of energy, not the cost of labor will be the determining factor in which country will dominate on planet Earth. In the long-term, the IFR will produce more energy safer and cheaper than any other technology currently available. It will be another century or two before the fusion reactor is commercially viable. Perhaps, after the fusion reactor will come zero-point energy sources.

    How do you like nuclear energy via IFR now?
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2008
  17. Oct 25, 2008 #16
    Personally, i love the IFR reactor. But in debate, something you love you will have to fight against. (the IFR was actually my starting case, but my teacher pulled me off of it). I just want to know how to fight against it because i will get a very bad grade if i dont find something to use.
  18. Oct 25, 2008 #17


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    Maybe you can use a lot of false information to make up a totally bogus case against the IFR ? :biggrin:
  19. Oct 27, 2008 #18

    Andrew Mason

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    Re: Integral Fast Reactor - a few negatives

    In order to cool this reactor you need something that will carry away heat rapidly. The IFR was designed to use liquid sodium, which is a key part of the "inherently safe" design (water at high temperatures must be kept under extreme pressure in order to remain liquid, whereas liquid sodum absorbs heat at extremely high temperatures at atmospheric pressure).

    But liquid sodium is highly flammable. So that is a potential problem.

    Also, sodium can become radioactive when it absorbs neutrons - 24Na (unlike water which becomes stable deuterium) . This requires a second heat transfer system to circulate in order to withdraw useable heat from the reactor - to power steam turbines. This reduces its efficiency somewhat. That is a potential negative.

    The other negative is that it was cancelled by the Clinton administration. That was probably a big mistake. But it means that it carries some political baggage that may make it difficult to get political approval in the future.

  20. Oct 27, 2008 #19
    According to the International Atomic Energy Admin., (IAEA) sodium used as a coolant for 50 years in a liquid metal cooled fast reactor should be retained for a period of 50 years before it can be used in industry or returned to nature. 24Na becomes stable in about 15 hours - the main problem is caused by 22Na, cobalt60, and cesium137 - they have longer half-lifes. See:
  21. Oct 27, 2008 #20
    thanks, that helps this a lot!!! I appricate all your help, and if you figure out anything else, it would be very helpful to my team and i.
    (Is sodium really the only bad thing about the reactor? That wasnt very smart of clinton...)
  22. Oct 29, 2008 #21


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    They don't, it would require closer to 1000 such turbines to equal the average power of one such reactor if they're built in a good wind area (Midwest). Even so, the turbines are still slightly cheaper than the current cost of a new US PWR nuclear plant, and that's before costing in processing the fuel and waste. The wind turbines would also come online 2-3x faster.

    Last edited: Oct 29, 2008
  23. Oct 29, 2008 #22


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    Its a bit of a stunt, but see Samso.
    5 years, 100%. 4300 people, farming, tourism, no heavy industry.

    Some of the shore turbines
    Interestingly, it looks like they buried all of their transmission, everywhere on the island.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2008
  24. Oct 29, 2008 #23


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    Now that's remarkable. I really wonder how they do it, because I don't see any large means of electricity storage, so how do they reach 75% wind energy ? I take it that they are electrically isolated and that they are not just calculating averages - I couldn't find this.

    EDIT: also, there's something I don't understand. Visibly the habitants of the island are shareholders of the windfarm, and "they make money with it", but how ? It is their own electricity bill which is the income of the windfarm, so how can they make money with it ?

    I really wonder whether they are not just calculating averages...
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2008
  25. Oct 29, 2008 #24


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    Hmm, at first I thought they'd use a couple of diesel generators (biofueled) for backup, but then I see repeatedly the claim of carbon _neutral_, ie average, for Solso and that they 'sell electricity back to the mainland' when the wind is good so they are not electrically isolated, and Im sure the juice flows both ways. Thus Im sure you're right and they rely on the mainland during low wind, so I retract as an example of renewable energy independence.

    You're up early in France Vanesch. Off to bed for me.
  26. Oct 30, 2008 #25
    "What makes matters worse is that solar cells, when they are spent, are slightly radioactive - another disposal problem....


    Should have said: "can be slightly radioactive", to be more precise - it depends on the type of solar cell. In any case, there are some very nasty chemicals (heavy metal compounds) used in some solar cells and they will be a disposal problem. Also, the use of radioactive additives such as 60Co have been successfully used experimentally to increase cell output - see: http://www.sciencedirect.com/scienc...serid=10&md5=67f1dca5ca1f43e63dc99028a80c3d50. It is no longer safe to think of contemporary energy producing devices in conventional terms.

    Also, an IFR can use a supercritical gas as the operating fluid and, therefore, require water only for sanitation purposes and fuel reprocessing. The elimination of the need for a huge water reservoir greatly reduces the construction time and cost of an IFR. According to General Electric (GE), the life expectancy of a 2.5 MW wind turbine is 20 years. The design life of a sodium cooled IFR easily can be 60 years. If GE is correct, the wind turbines would have to be replaced twice during the lifetime of the IFR. At this juncture, in the long-term, there is no cheaper, more reliable way to produce electrical power in the quantities needed than the IFR. The IFR concept makes nuclear power an "almost" totally renewable source of energy. Compared to the IFR, PWRs are a waste of energy.
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2008
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