Europe launches program to build three Gen IV reactor prototypes

25 November 2010, Nucleonics Week

The European Commission last week formally launched the European Sustainable Nuclear Industrial Initiative, which will support three Generation IV reactor projects as part of the EU's plan to promote low-carbon energy technologies.

The launch of Esnii was announced by Fabrizio Barbaso, deputy director general of the commission's Energy Directorate, at a meeting November 15 in Brussels of the EU's Strategic Energy Technology Plan, or SET-Plan. The meeting was sponsored by the EU's Belgian Presidency. A similar industrial initiative supporting biomass energy was also launched at the meeting. Initiatives supporting wind, solar, electricity grids and carbon sequestration were launched earlier.

Esnii will support three Generation IV reactor systems: a sodium-cooled fast reactor, or SFR, called Astrid that is proposed by France; a gas-cooled fast reactor, GFR, called Allegro supported by central and eastern Europe; and a lead-cooled fast reactor, LFR, technology pilot called Myrrha that is proposed by Belgium.

EDF's Noel Camarcat, chairman of the Esnii task force, and Erik Van Walle, director general of Belgium's nuclear research center SCK-CEN, outlined the Esnii program for the next two years in a presentation to the meeting.

They said the aim is to demonstrate Gen IV reactor technologies that can close the nuclear fuel cycle, provide long-term waste management solutions, and expand the applications of nuclear fission beyond electricity production to hydrogen production, heat and desalination.

They said the initiative seeks to maintain Europe's leadership in future nuclear energy systems through joint development of promising technologies. Nuclear power is the largest low-carbon source of energy in Europe, they said, and it "will remain a vital component of the EU energy mix." Esnii is designed to combine European capabilities in fast neutron reactor technology research and development with industrial capability to build the needed prototypes and develop supporting infrastructure, they said.

According to their figures, the total estimated cost to Esnii of deploying the Gen IV prototypes past 2020 is Eur10.81 billion. Eur 5 billion of that is for Astrid, Eur1.96 billion is for the Myrrha LFR, technology pilot and a later LFR demonstrator, and Eur 1.2 billion is for the Allegro demonstrator. Supporting infrastructure is projected to cost Eur2.65 billion, they said.

Astrid is led by the French CEA and is supported by a French government loan of Eur650 million. EDF and Areva are participating in the design, and other industry partners have been invited to participate. The safety options will be discussed with the regulator in 2012. Astrid will be rated about 600 MW and is expected to be built at Marcoule. Esnii's roadmap has construction beginning in 2017 and the unit being connected to the grid in 2022.

Myrrha is defined by Esnii as an accelerator-driven system/European technology pilot plant for lead and a "multi-purpose experimental facility." Belgium's SCK-CEN is leading the project and will provide a total of about Eur 450 million, according to slides from the Camarcat/Van Walle presentation. The unit is rated at 100 thermal MW and will be built at SCK-CEN's Mol site beginning in 2014 and is to begin operation in 2023, according to the Esnii roadmap. A reduced-power model of Myrrha called Guinevere was started up at Mol last March.

Esnii also includes an LFR technology demonstrator known as Alfred, also about 100 MW(t), seen as a prelude to an industrial demonstration unit of about 600 MWe, according to the slides. Construction on Alfred could begin in 2017 and the unit could start operating in 2025, the officials said.

Esnii's roadmap doesn't go out far enough to cover the 600-MW unit.
GFR technology, which along with lead is seen as an alternative to sodium for future fast reactor coolants, is represented by Allegro, another technology demonstrator that is slated to be built in one of the new EU states of eastern Europe. It also is rated at 100 MW(t). It would precede an industrial demonstration unit called GoFastR, which would be sized at "a few hundred" MWe, the officials said.

Allegro is expected to begin construction in 2018 and begin operating in 2025. The industrial demo would come after that.

The budget for Esnii over 2010-2012 totals Eur526.7 million, of which Eur 339 million will go to Astrid, according to the presentation.







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