Two deals were announced by Areva and the CEA yesterday to develop the Astrid reactor concept and jointly research permanent waste management.
The moves by France's nuclear industrial and research players came after the country's government allocated €650 million ($890 million) for the development of a prototype Generation-IV nuclear power system with a goal of operation in 2020. The Astrid reactor concept will see Areva "designing the nuclear steam supply system, nuclear auxiliaries and the instrumentation and control," while the CEA will retain control of the project and design the reactor core and its fuel.
|Astrid's primary circuit (Image: CEA)
The name Astrid is derived from its description as an Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration. The first commercial prototype would produce 600 MWe for the grid while proving technologies that could be deployed commercially in the middle of this century. Areva said it could demonstrate that sodium-cooled designs meet the criteria of a Generation-IV nuclear power system: recycling of materials from used nuclear fuel, high availability and reliability, strong non-proliferation measures and "the same safety level as the EPR."
The deal announced yesterday should lead to the employment of 250 people on the Astrid project by the end of this year with this growing to 350 by the end of 2012. The goal is to give the French government the information it needs to make a decision on building Astrid in 2017.
A separate deal between CEA and Areva will see the two set up a joint laboratory to research vitrification - the immobilisation of radioactive waste in a glass matrix.
Among the new lab's aims will be to develop new forms of glass specific to different wastes and "new and even more efficient processes for optimized waste management." As part of a strategy to maintain France's perceived lead in the field the lab is to look ahead to identify needs for new products, streamline their development and go on to capitalize on their deployment.
Generation-IV reactors like Astrid are seen as part of a 'closed' nuclear fuel cycle where used fuel is processed and largely recombined into new fuel for power generation - including some materials currently thought of as waste. The small amount of true waste from the cycle would be vitrified ready for disposal.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News