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Safety and core design of large liquid-metal cooled fast breeder reactors


In light of the scientific evidence for changes in the climate caused by greenhouse-gas emissions from human activities, the world is in ever more desperate need of new, inexhaustible, safe and clean primary energy sources. A viable solution to this problem is the widespread adoption of nuclear breeder reactor technology. Innovative breeder reactor concepts using liquid-metal coolants such as sodium or lead will be able to utilize the waste produced by the current light water reactor fuel cycle to power the entire world for several centuries to come.

Breed & burn (B&B) type fast reactor cores can unlock the energy potential of readily available fertile material such as depleted uranium without the need for chemical reprocessing. Using B&B technology, nuclear waste generation, uranium mining needs and proliferation concerns can be greatly reduced, and after a transitional period, enrichment facilities may no longer be needed.

In this dissertation, new passively operating safety systems for fast reactors cores are presented. New analysis and optimization methods for B&B core design have been developed, along with a comprehensive computer code that couples neutronics, thermal-hydraulics and structural mechanics and enables a completely automated and optimized fast reactor core design process. In addition, an experiment that expands the knowledge-base of corrosion issues of lead-based coolants in nuclear reactors was designed and built.

The motivation behind the work presented in this thesis is to help facilitate the widespread adoption of safe and efficient fast reactor technology.

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