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The WORK PROGRAMME 2008 of the EURATOM asks "to draw conclusions on the pre-conceptual design... that comply best with the GIF technology goals."

It is important to point out that the ambition of the CP ESFR is broader and the goals to comply with have been reviewed and extended, compared to the GIF ones, to take into account the European specificities.

Following all the available inputs, the key research goals for fourth generation of European sodium cooled fast reactors can be summarized as follow:

An improved safety

The expected progresses of the SFR’s safety architecture have to allow this technology reaching a level at least equivalent, or even higher, to that of the third generation’s reactors. A better consideration within the design of the specificities of sodium cooled reactors with fast neutrons has to be achieved. These specificities concern in particular the risk to meet prompt criticality in severe accident conditions and the risks related to the use of sodium. Potential initiators of abnormal conditions must be reduced to the largest amount reasonably achievable in order to prevent as far as possible incidents and accidents. The severe plant conditions have to be kept highly improbable and the risk of mechanical energy releases during these events and event sequences must be prevented or minimized. The system shall have an increased resistance against the external hazards.

The design shall look for a full in service inspection and reparability capability for the components and systems which are critical from the point of view of the safety. Thoughts on this subject have to consider simultaneously availability and investment protection.

The achievement of a robust architecture vis à vis of abnormal situations and the robustness of the safety demonstrations will materialize the safety improvement.

The guarantee of a financial risk comparable to that of the other means of energy production.

The economic competitiveness and the reliability of the system has to further progress so that :
  • A possible residual additional cost vis à vis of third generation reactors available on the market becomes acceptable for the utilities (considering the “sustainable” character of the technology),

  • the investment protection is adequately guaranteed
It is thus necessary to reduce the electricity production cost to a level similar to those of the third generation light water reactors by simplifying the system, reducing the mass of steel and increasing the performances, both increasing the level of energy conversion efficiency and/or increasing the fuel burn-up.

The availability and the reliability of the installation would have to be increased through improved operation and maintenance thanks to an easier and faster inspectability and reparability of components and systems. The life expectancy has to achieve 60 years and dismantling has to be taken into account in the design from the very beginning looking for operation simplification, reduction of waste and of doses to operators.

Finally the design has to look for limiting the risk of a premature “administrative” shut down of the installation through consideration of specific design objectives to address non nuclear accidents (e.g. the risks connected to the sodium) and, generally speaking, an improved acceptability by the public. The acceptance by the public opinion is expected to be strongly connected to the demonstration of the capability to manage waste and to guarantee the durability of the resources (sustainability). Similarly Proliferation Resistance and Physical Protection (PR&PP) concerns have to be addressed to facilitate this acceptance.

Finally it is agreed that simplicity and robustness of the safety demonstrations are essential features to achieve public acceptance.

A flexible and robust management of the nuclear materials.

The fast neutrons allow using all the uranium available, including the reserve of depleted uranium. To reduce the risks of proliferation the design shall look for systems providing the needed and sufficient plutonium quantity for plant operation, with adequate and possibly innovative fissile materials protection measures.

The management of the nuclear materials allows considering the minimisation of the impact on the environment which has to be as low as practicably achievable. The reduction of the impact on the environment includes on one hand the possibility of transmuting the radioactive long life waste and, on the other hand, progressing in the reduction of the quantity of effluents and the staff radiological exposure. The potential of transmutation with the ESFR of the radioactive waste with long life must be demonstrated.

The translation of all the above goals into detailed technical requirements has been done by the EISOFAR exercise. The requirements are elaborated and organized in terms of System’s performance; Operation, maintenance and procedures; Safety design & analysis and licensing issues; Physical protection & Proliferation resistance; Functional requirements for provisions; Fuel cycle; Constructability; Decommissioning; System’s economy; they are presented, in detail, within the Appendix 1.
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