Journal article

Core neutronics characterization of the GFR2400 Gas Cooled Fast Reactor

The Generation IV initiative was launched with the goal of developing nuclear reactors which surpass current designs in safety, sustainability, economics and non-proliferation. From the six most promising concepts the Gas Cooled Fast Reactor (GFR) represents a challenging and innovative idea that is prominent in the sustainability aspect with the ability to have a closed fuel cycle and the potential to burn minor actinides (MAs). The European FP7 GoFastR project was one of the latest steps in the development and further optimization of GFRs. This paper presents a comprehensive overview of the neutronic performance of GFR2400 which was considered as a conceptual design for a large scale GFR within the collaboration. This reactor is the newest on the evolutionary path of fully ceramic GFRs featuring ceramic fuel and structural materials allowing high temperatures and efficiency using helium coolant. An important innovation of the current design is the application of refractory metallic liners to enhance the fission product retention of the cladding, resulting in a significant neutronic penalty during normal operation, at the same time being advantageous under transient conditions involving spectrum softening. Using the ERANOS and SCALE code systems several parameters were determined for beginning of life (BOL) conditions, including excess reactivity, various reactivity effects such as depressurization, Doppler or thermal expansion effects, as well as kinetic parameters. An extensive sensitivity and uncertainty analysis of these parameters was also done with the 15 group BOLNA and 44 group SCALE covariance libraries. Open and closed fuel cycle operations were investigated and the transmutational capabilities were studied with the GFR connected to traditional light water reactors in a symbiotic system. The presented analysis shows that the GFR2400 design is a major improvement compared to previous concepts. All preliminary constraints are respected resulting in a manageable initial Pu inventory of 10 t/GWel at 45% plant efficiency, a low MA mass fraction of 1% by self-recycling and a near zero breeding gain without the use of fertile blankets. At the same time the reactor has acceptable safety features precluding super-prompt-criticality in depressurized conditions at BOL and in open cycle equilibrium. Either of the two planned control devices is sufficient to shut down the reactor independently of the other and the refractory liners introduce significant negative reactivity in case of water ingress. However the occurrence of hot spots when all control rods are inserted needs further analysis. The design also shows promising closed fuel cycle and transmutational performance. However as is the case in other fast reactors the fuel cycle closure causes safety related parameters to degrade, most importantly the depressurization reactivity effect to exceed the effective delayed neutron fraction in the current design. To assess the acceptability of this deterioration further analysis is needed. Finally, it can be concluded that current commercial codes are satisfactory for such analysis; however there is a need for better covariance data. Several parameters exceed their target uncertainty value, most notably the k-effective by a factor of 6, the main source of the uncertainty being the inelastic scattering of U-238. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


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