Outlook on Generation IV Nuclear Systems and Related Materials R&D Challenges
Preoccupations of energy security and concerns about of the role that future reactors should play for minimizing long-lived radioactive waste led the French Government to formally approve a R&D strategy that gives first priority to developing a new generation of fast neutron nuclear systems and recycling technologies so as to assure a sustainable, proliferation resistant and environment friendly electricity production in the second half of the 21st century. This materializes though the goal of preparing the deployment of fast neutron reactors in the French generation fleet around 2040 that is being addressed by the CEA and industrial partners along two tracks: seeking for innovations to improve sodium cooled fast reactors current performances, and revisiting the potential merits of gas cooled fast reactors with safety features enhanced by the use of an innovative refractory fuel technology. This goal is closely linked to that of preparing the renewal of the spent fuel reprocessing plant of La Hague around 2040 through research and development on advanced recycling technologies capable of managing minor actinides so as to offer best nonproliferation features, as well as to minimize the long term burden of ultimate radioactive waste (heat load and radiotoxicity). The paper presents the R&D strategy to meet these goals, as it has been updated in 2006 to account for the presidential decision to launch design studies of a prototype of innovative sodium cooled fast reactor to be put in service by 2020. Furthermore, this strategy is devised according to the date of 2012 stipulated by the bill of June 2006 on the “management of radioactive materials and waste” as a major milestone to assess the potential of the considered fast reactor types for industrial deployment and transmutation of long-lived radioactive waste. The paper will also address the second objective of the French R&D programme on future nuclear energy systems that consists in supporting the strategy of industrial partners in the field of high temperature nuclear technologies for potential applications to the production of hydrogen and synthetic hydrogen fuels, or the delivery of process heat for other industrial applications. The prospects opened by the concrete implementation of the multilateral collaboration within the Generation International Forum and those opened by the perspectives of a strengthened cooperation on future nuclear fission systems within the 7th European R&D Framework Programme will also be covered, as well as the stakes of an efficient linkage between R&D programmes on the same nuclear system conducted at the national, European and broader international levels.
KeywordsFast Neutron Fuel Cycle Minor Actinide Fast Neutron Reactor Material Challenge
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