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HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 1

Types of Nuclear Reactors
• Generations of Reactors
• Principles of Classification
• Survey of Reactor Types
• Light Water Reactors
• Burners, Converters, and Breeders
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 2
Reactor Generations
1942-Dec-2 Chicago Pile-1
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 3
Principles of Classification
• Energy spectrum utilized for fission
• Prime purpose
• Fuel
• Coolant
• Coolant system
• Moderator
• Heterogeneity (?)
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 4
Heterogeneity
• All reactors used today for power generation are
HETEROGENEOUS, i.e. fuel, coolant and/or moderator are
physically different entities with non-uniform and anisotropic
composition.
• The homogeneous reactor, is defined as ”a reactor whose small-
scale composition is uniform and isotropic”.
• ORNL, Homogeneous Reactor Experiment: HRE-1, HRE-2
(1950’s); thermal breeder, fuel: uranyl sulfate (UO
2
SO
4
) in heavy
water (D
2
O). HRE were dropped → liquid fuel.
• Molten salt reactor,
235
UF
4
+ThF
4
,
233
UF
4
. In 1960’s → fast breeder.
• A further homogenous reactor approach, a liquid- metal thermal
breeder using uranium compounds in molten bismuth.
• At present there is no prospect in sight of a major program to
develop homogenous reactors
• molten salt accelerator-driven concept (?)
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 5
Homogeneous Reactor Experiment
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 6
Energy
Thermal (0.5 eV) Intermediate (10
3
eV) Fast (10
5
eV)
Power reactors:
BWR, PWR,
VVER, RBMK;
thermal breeder,…
Spaceship reactors
(accident in Can.)
BN350, BN600,
Super Fenix,
Naval reactors
Energy Spectrum Classification
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 7
Purpose
Power Ship propulsion Production Research Specialized
LWR
PHWR (CANDU)
HTGR
AGR
LMR
LGR (RBMK)
LMFBR
HWLWR
OLR
Submarines
Navy
Aircarrier
Icebreakers
PWR-cargo
Plutonium
Tritium
WPR
TRIGA
Studsvik
Isolated areas
Space propul.
Heat for chem
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 8
Fuel
UO
2
(3-4%)
sintered pellets
zirconium alloy
Nat. U
pellets
tubes
UO
2
spherical part.
carbon, silicon
U-Pu-Zr alloy
pellets
steel cladding
U-Al alloy
plates
Al cladding + Al-Si
LWR
CANDU
HTGR LMR
TRIGA
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 9
Coolant
Light Water
H
2
O
Heavy Water
D
2
O
Gas
air, CO
2
, He
Liquid Metal
Na, Na-K, Pb-Bi
LWR
CANDU
HTGR
Pebble bed
LMR
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 10
Moderator
Light Water
H
2
O
Heavy Water
D
2
O
Graphite
C
LWR
CANDU
LGR (RBMK)
GCR
HTGR
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 11
1-loop
BWR
2-loop
PWR
3-loop
LMR
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 12
Commonly Accepted Classification
PWR BWR
German
USA
Na
Pb-Bi
Nuclear
Reactors
Power
Reactors
Specialized
Reactors
Research
Reactors
Ship Propulsion
Reactors
Production
Reactors
CANDU AGR Other
PWR Fast
LMR
HTGR LWR
U
nat
C+H
2
O
U
nat
C+Gas
WPR
TRIGA
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 13

• Fuel
• Coolant
• Moderator
• Control system (rods)

A main distinction between different types of reactors lies in the
differences in the choices of fuel, coolant, and moderator.
Components of
Conventional Reactors
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 14
90
U (2 ppm)
4.5∙10
9
yr
90
Th (6 ppm)
14.05∙10
9
yr
238 239
92 94
U Pu
99.5%
÷
235
92
U
0.7%
23.5min 2.3day 238 1 239 239 239
92 0 92 93 94
U U Np Pu n + ÷ ÷÷÷÷ ÷÷÷÷
23.3min 27.4day 232 1 233 233 233
90 0 90 91 92
Th Th Pa U n + ÷ ÷÷÷÷ ÷÷÷÷
Fuels
Natural Elements
233
U
7∙10
8
yr
Artificial Nuclides
239
Pu
24∙10
3
yr
235
233
239
0.0064
0.0026
0.0020
|
|
|
=
=
=
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 15
Between thorium (Z=90) and bismuth (Z=83), the isotope with the
longest half-life is
226
Ra (T
½
=1600 years), and therefore there are
no fuel candidates, quite apart from the issue of fissionability.
Uranium and Thorium are the only natural elements available
for use as reactor fuels. In addition,
233
U and
239
Pu can be
produced from capture on
232
Th and
238
U in reactors. Of fissile
materials, only U is both fissile and found in nature in useful
amounts.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 16
10
-3
10
-2
10
-1
10
0
10
1
10
2
10
3
10
4
10
5
10
6
10
7
Energy (eV)
10
-2
10
-1
10
0
10
1
10
2
10
3
10
4
o

(
b
a
r
n
s
)
232
Th
capture
fission
T
1/2
=> 14.05 Gy +/- 60.00 My [4.434E+17s +/- 1.893E+15s]
SPIN => 0 +
MEAN DECAY ENERGIES (MeV)
Baryon => 4.07742 +/- 0.169064
Lepton => 0.0130345 +/- 0.00112065
Photon => 0.00124304 +/- 0.000114618
* DECAY MODES:
Alpha decay, possibly followed by Gamma emission
Q_value => 4.081 MeV +/- 0.004 MeV Branching => 1 +/- 0
Fission decay, followed by Gamma emission
Q_value => 169.4 MeV 4.1 MeV Branching => 1.4e-11 5e-12
* NUCLIDE MAT. NUMBER: 9061
The following number of lines are present:
Gamma: 2 Alpha: 3 Electron: 8 X-rays: 7

23.3min 27.4day 232 1 233 233 233
90 0 90 91 92
Th Th Pa U n + ÷ ÷÷÷÷ ÷÷÷÷
232
Th
9
1 2
14.05 10 yr T = ×
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 17
10
-3
10
-2
10
-1
10
0
10
1
10
2
10
3
10
4
10
5
10
6
10
7
Energy (eV)
10
-2
10
-1
10
0
10
1
10
2
10
3
10
4
o

(
b
a
r
n
s
)
233
U
capture
fission
T
1/2
=> 159.25 ky +/- 200.00 y [5.026E+12s +/- 6.312E+09s]
SPIN => 5/2 +
* MEAN DECAY ENERGIES (MeV)
Baryon => 4.90413 +/- 0.0181258
Lepton => 0.00759652 +/- 0.000610716
Photon => 0.00122537 +/- 0.000110582
* DECAY MODES:
Alpha decay, possibly followed by Gamma emission
Q_value => 4.9089 MeV +/- 0.0012 MeV Branching => 1 0
* NUCLIDE MAT. NUMBER: 9234
The following number of lines are present:
Gamma: 116 Alpha: 37 Electron: 235 X-rays: 7

233
U
3
1 2
159.25 10 yr T = ×
233
235
0.0026 1 1.0013
0.0064 1 1.0032
k
k
|
|
= ¬ s s
= ¬ s s
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 18
10
-3
10
-2
10
-1
10
0
10
1
10
2
10
3
10
4
10
5
10
6
10
7
Energy (eV)
10
-2
10
-1
10
0
10
1
10
2
10
3
10
4
o

(
b
a
r
n
s
)
235
U
capture
fission
T
1/2
=> 703.81 My +/- 500.01 ky [2.221E+16s +/- 1.578E+13s]
SPIN => 7/2 -
* MEAN DECAY ENERGIES (MeV)
Baryon => 4.46298 +/- 0.287321
Lepton => 0.0475365 +/- 0.00378036
Photon => 0.167808 +/- 0.00347714
* DECAY MODES:
Alpha decay, possibly followed by Gamma emission
Q_value => 4.679 MeV +/- 0.0025 MeV Branching => 1 0
Fission decay, followed by Gamma emission
Q_value => 176.4 MeV +/- 4.6 MeV Branching => 2e-10 +/- 1e-10
* NUCLIDE MAT. NUMBER: 9240
The following number of lines are present:
Gamma: 49 Alpha: 17 Electron: 127 X-rays: 7

235
U
6
1 2
703.81 10 yr T = ×
235
233
239
0.0064
0.0026
0.0020
|
|
|
=
=
=
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 19
10
-3
10
-2
10
-1
10
0
10
1
10
2
10
3
10
4
10
5
10
6
10
7
Energy (eV)
10
-2
10
-1
10
0
10
1
10
2
10
3
10
4
o

(
b
a
r
n
s
)
238
U
capture
fission
T
1/2
=> 4.47 Gy +/- 5.00 My [1.410E+17s +/- 1.578E+14s]
SPIN => 0 +
* MEAN DECAY ENERGIES (MeV)
Baryon => 4.25996 +/- 0.236186
Lepton => 0.0105454 +/- 0.000870616
Photon => 0.00125402 +/- 0.000119247
* DECAY MODES:
Alpha decay, possibly followed by Gamma emission
Q_value => 4.2703 MeV +/- 0.0039 MeV Branching => 0.999999
Fission decay, followed by Gamma emission
Q_value => 173.6 MeV +/- 3.4 MeV Branching => 5.4e-07 +/- 2e-08
* NUCLIDE MAT. NUMBER: 9249
The following number of lines are present:
Gamma: 2 Alpha: 3 Electron: 6 X-rays: 2

9
1 2
4.47 10 yr T = ×
238
U
mg of U
3 3ppb
tonne Seawater
=
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 20
10
-3
10
-2
10
-1
10
0
10
1
10
2
10
3
10
4
10
5
10
6
10
7
Energy (eV)
10
-2
10
-1
10
0
10
1
10
2
10
3
10
4
o

(
b
a
r
n
s
)
239
Pu
capture
fission
T
1/2
=> 24.11 ky +/- 40.00 y [7.609E+11s +/- 1.262E+09s]
SPIN => 1/2 +
* MEAN DECAY ENERGIES (MeV)
Baryon => 5.23678 +/- 0.0389047
Lepton => 0.00738587 +/- 0.000585825
Photon => 0.000707559 +/- 6.46626e-05
* DECAY MODES:
Alpha decay, possibly followed by Gamma emission
Q_value => 5.2435 MeV +/- 0.0007 MeV
Branching => 0.000115 +/- 2e-06
Alpha decay, possibly followed by Gamma emission
Q_value => 5.2434 MeV +/- 0.0007 MeV
Branching => 0.999885 +/- 2e-06
Fission decay, followed by Gamma emission
Q_value => 184.3 MeV +/- 3.6 MeV
Branching => 4.4e-12 +/- 4e-13
* NUCLIDE MAT. NUMBER: 9440
The following number of lines are present:
Gamma: 188 Alpha: 69 Electron: 468 X-rays: 7

239
Pu
3
1 2
24.11 10 yr T = ×
239
235
0.0020
0.0064
|
|
=
=
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 21
Enrichment in
235
U, a concentration of 3% - 4% is typical in
reactors used for electricity generation, but there is a trend
towards higher enrichments and greater burnup of the fuel. The
fuel is solid. For the most part it is in an oxide form, UO
2
, but
metallic fuel is a possibility and has been used in some reactors.
The fuel usually is in cylindrical pellets with typical dimensions
on a centimeter scale, but some designs for future reactors are
based on fuel in submillimeter microspheres embedded in
graphite. The goal here is enhanced raggedness at high
temperatures.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 22
σ
a
and vs U enrichment
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 23
Moderators
1
H
Widely used
H
2
O or D
2
O
2
He
Not used
Gas → Press.
3
He absorbs
3
Li
Not used
6
Li absorbs
4
Be
Was used
9
Be toxic,
expensive
5
B
Impossible
10
B absorbs
6
C
Widely used
Must be pure
No use to consider Z > 6
Only D
2
O and C can be used with U
nat

HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 24
Coolants
• Function – transfer heat
– Objective: power density, temperature
– Limitations: in PWR: below saturation T,
T
in
=293, T
out
= 315; in LMFBR, ΔT=140; in
HTGR, ΔT=500.
• After shutdown
• Coolant is either gas or liquid: H
2
O, D
2
O,
He, CO
2
, Na, Na-K, Pb, Pb-Bi.
• Coolant is moderator
• Classification: LWR, HWR, GR, LMR
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 25
Control materials are materials with large thermal neutron-
absorption cross sections, used as controllable poisons to
adjust the level of reactivity. They serve a variety of
purposes:
• To achieve intentional changes in reactor operating
conditions, including turning the reactor on and off
• To compensate for changes in reactor operating conditions,
including changes in the fissile and poison content of the fuel
• To provide a means for turning the reactor off rapidly, in case
of emergency
Control Materials
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 26
Total cross section of
10
B, Cd and In.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 27
Energy variation of
absorption cross-
sections for elements
of extremely high
cross-sections.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 28
Control Materials
• Commonly used
113
Cd (12.2%, 20000 b)
and
10
B (19.9%, 3800 b)
• Control rods – Cd, B (boron steel)
– PWR: c. rods B
4
C or Cd (5%)+AgIn
– BWR: c. rods B
4
C
• Water solution – B
• Burnable poison (B or Gd)
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 29
World Inventory of
Reactor Types (Dec. 1994)
Type

Number Capacity (GWe) Usual
Fuel
Moderat
or
Coolant First
devel
Oper. Cons Oper. Cons
PWR 245 39 215.7 36.8 UO
2
enr H
2
O H
2
O USA
BWR 92 6 75.9 6.0 UO
2
enr H
2
O H
2
O USA
PHWR 34 16 18.6 7.9 UO
2
nat. D
2
O D
2
O Canada
LGR
(RBMK)
15 1 14.8 0.9 UO
2
enr C H
2
O USA/
USRR
GCR 35 0 11.7 0 U, UO
2
C CO
2
UK
LMFBR 3 4 0.9 2.4 UO
2
+
PuO
2
None Liq. Na Various
Total 424 66 338 54
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 30
PWR BWR HTGR LMFBR GCFR PHW
MWt
3400
(2700)
3600
(2900)
3000 2400 2500 1600
MWe 1150 1200 1170 1000 1000 500
Eff 33.7 33.5 39.0 39.0 39.5 31.0
Fuel UO
2
UO
2
UC,ThO
2
PuO
2
, UO
2
PuO
2
, UO
2
UO
2

Cool H
2
O H
2
O He Na He D
2
O
Moder. H
2
O H
2
O Graphite – – D
2
O
Height 366 376 634 91 148 410
Diam. 377 366 844 222 270 680
Burnup 33,000 27,500 98,000 100,000 100,000 10,000
Typical Data
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 31
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 32
PWR. The pressurized water reactor accounts for almost two-
thirds of all capacity and is the only LWR used in some
countries, for example, France, the former Soviet Union, and
South Korea.
BWR. The boiling water reactor is a major alternative to the
PWR, and both are used in, for example, Sweden, the United
States and Japan.
PHWR. The pressurized heavy water reactor uses heavy water
for both the coolant and moderator and operates with natural
uranium fuel. It has been developed in Canada and is commonly
referred to as the CANDU. CANDU units are also in operation
in India and are being built in Romania and South Korea.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 33
CANDU reactors
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 34
LGR (RBMK). The light-water-cooled, graphite-moderated
reactor uses water as a coolant and graphite for moderation. The
world’s only currently operating LGRs are the RBMK reactors in
the former Soviet Union. There were four such units at the
Chernobyl plant at the time of the accident there, two of which
are still in operation.
Ignalina
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 35
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 36
GCR. The gas-cooled, graphite-moderated reactor uses a CO2
coolant and a graphite moderator. Its use is largely limited to the
United Kingdom; it is sometimes known as the Magnox reactor. A
larger second-generation version is the advanced gas-cooled,
graphite- moderated reactor (AGCR).
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 37
HTGR. The high-temperature gas-cooled reactor uses helium
coolant and a graphite moderator. The only operating HTGR in the
United States (Fort St. Vrain) has been shut down, and there are no
operating HTGRs elsewhere.

HWLWR. The heavy-water-moderated, light-water-cooled reactor
is an unconventional variant of the heavy water reactor, and only
one has been in recent operation, a 148-MWe plant in Japan.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 38
LMFBR. The liquid-metal fast breeder reactor uses fast neutrons
and needs no moderator. A liquid metal is used as coolant, now
invariably liquid sodium. There are 2 liquid- metal reactors in
operation + 2 newly shut-down (France – Phenix and Superphenix,
and one each in Kazakhstan- BN-600 and Russia BN-60) and
several others under construction or reconstruction, including
Monju reactor in Japan, which suffer sodium leakage accident in
1994.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 39
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 40
Monju Reactor
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 41
LIGHT WATER REACTORS
PWRs and BWRs

The two types of LWR in use in the world are the pressurized
water reactor (PWR) and the boiling water reactor (BWR). In the
PWR, the water in the reactor vessel is maintained in liquid form
by high pressure. Steam to drive the turbine is developed in a
separate steam generator. In the BWR, steam is provided directly
from the reactor.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 42
PWR
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 43
BWR
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 44
Typical conditions in a PWR, temperatures of the cooling water
into and out of the reactor vessel are about 292
o
C and 325
o
C,
respectively, and the pressure is about 155 bar. For the BWR,
typical inlet and outlet temperatures are 278
o
C and 288
o
C,
respectively, and the pressure is only about 72 bar. The high
pressure in the PWR keeps the water in a condensed phase; the
lower pressure in the BWR allows boiling and generation of
steam within the reactor vessel. Neither the PWR or BWR has
an overwhelming technical advantage over the other, as
indicated by the continued widespread use of both.
The future is not clear-cut, however, and in Japan 3 BWRs
were under construction at the end of 1994, compared to only 1
PWR.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 45
Components of a Light Water Reactor
The reactor pressure vessel is a massive cylindrical steel tank.
Typically for a PWR, it is about 12 m in height and 4.5 m in
diameter. It has thick walls, about 20 cm, and is designed to
withstand pressures of up to 170 atmospheres.
A major component, or set of components, is the system for
converting the reactor’s heat into useful work. In the BWR, steam
is used directly from the pressure vessel to drive a turbine. This is
the step at which electricity is produced. In the PWR, primary
water from the core is pumped at high pressure through pipes
passing through a heat exchanger in the steam generators. Water
fed into the secondary side of the steam generator is converted
into steam, and this steam is used to drive a turbine. The
secondary loop is also closed. The exhaust steam and water from
the turbine enter a condenser and are cooled in a second heat
exchanger before returning to the steam generator.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 46
The pressure vessel and the steam generators are contained within
a massive structure, the containment building, commonly made of
strongly reinforced concrete. In some designs, the concrete
containment is lined with steel; in others, there is a separate inner
steel containment vessel. The containment is intended to retain
activity released during accidents and is also believed capable of
protecting a reactor against external events such as an airplane
crash. In the Three Mile Island accident, the containment very
successfully retained the released radioactivity, although it may be
noted that the physical structure was not put fully to the test, since
there was no explosion or buildup of high pressures. At Chernobyl
there was no containment, with disastrous results. In principle, if a
reactor is sufficiently protected against accidents, a containment is
unnecessary. Nonetheless, it is widely thought to be an essential
safety feature, providing an important redundancy.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 47
Reactor Cores
PWR
BWR
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 48
BWR-fuel bundle
SVEA-95
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 49
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 50
Schematic diagram
of containment
building with
enclosed reactor
vessel and steam
generator for an
illustrative BWR.
The output of the
steam generator
drives the turbines,
external to the
containment
building.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 51
Some CAD-pictures of BWRs (FO3)
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 52
Steam Separator in BWR
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 53
BURNERS, CONVERTERS, AND BREEDERS
Achievement of High Conversion Ratios in Thermal Reactors
Difficulty of Reaching a Conversion Ratio of Unity with
235
U
The limiting condition for a breeder reactor is that the conversion
ratio C be at least 1. This means that η, the number of neutrons
produced for each neutron absorbed in
235
U, must be 2 or more.
For thermal neutrons absorbed in
235
U, q=2.075. Were there no
losses, this would suffice for breeding: 1 neutron for continuing
the chain reaction, 1 neutron for production of
239
Pu, and 0.08
neutrons free to be ”wasted.” Such efficient utilization cannot be
achieved, however, because there is absorption in the moderator
and other non-fuel materials, as well as escape of neutrons from
the core. There fore, a
235
U -fueled thermal breeder reactor is not
practical. Nonetheless, the production of
239
Pu is significant,
increasing the overall energy output from the reactor fuel beyond
that gained from the U alone.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 54
Thermal Breeders
• η
233
= 2.296; η
235
= 1.65
• Eugene Wigner’s group in 1945
235
U+
232
Th→
233
U; then one uses a self
sustaining cycle
233
U+
232
Th;
σ
c
(
232
Th) > σ
c
(
238
U)
• Conclusion:
233
U breeders are possible
• Thermal Breeders were abandoned in favor
of Fast Breeders
• It is conceivable: interest may revive; only
few breeder programs nowadays (all fast)
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 55
High Conversion Ration
• Motivation: Pu production; extension of fuel
resources
• High capture in
238
U must be compensated by
smaller losses in moderator
• Moderator: C instead of H
2
O:
– Possibility to use U
nat
– C is less efficient as moderator → more captures in
238
U when slowing down
– Less absorption in
12
C than in H
2
O
• Weapon-grade Pu (Graphite): Windscale, RBMK
• D
2
O moderator has the same advantages
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 56
Resonance Absorption
10
-3
10
-2
10
-1
10
0
10
1
10
2
10
3
10
4
10
5
10
6
10
7
Energy (eV)
10
-2
10
-1
10
0
10
1
10
2
10
3
10
4
o

(
b
a
r
n
s
)
238
U
capture
fission
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 57
Fast Breeder Reactors
• Fission in Pu by fast (1 Mev) neutrons
– No loss while slowing down
– High ν and η
– Ratio σ
c

f
< 0.03 almost all absorptions result
in fission ν = η = 3 (
235
U η = 2.3)
• Detailed analysis: η = 3 = 1(F)+1(B)+1(L)
• Thermalization undesireable → coolant
with large A (
23
Na, Pb+Bi)
• Fuel: UO
2
(80%)+PuO
2
(20%); DU is used
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 58
Status of Fast Breeder Programs
The main incentive for the development of fast breeder reactors is
the extension of uranium supplies. A fast breeder economy would
extract much more energy per tonne of uranium than is obtained
from other reactors, e.g., the LWRs. Further, with more energy per
unit mass, it becomes economically practical to use more expensive
uranium ores, increasing the ultimate uranium resource.
the argument, it has been pointed out that a liquid-metal fast reactor
(LMR) can be used to destroy unwanted plutonium and other heavy
elements in weapons stockpiles or nuclear wastes. In this reversal of
motivation, the LMR would be used to consume unwanted
plutonium, rather than to produce plutonium as a fuel. There is
flexibility in this, because as LMR technology and facilities are
developed, they could be turned to either purpose.

HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 59
France has led in the development and deployment of breeder
reactors, with two completed reactors, the 233-MWe Phenix, put
into operation in 1973, and the 1200-MWe Superphenix at Creys-
Malville, which first generated electricity in 1986. The Superphenix
was shut down for almost two years beginning in May 1987 because
of leaks in the sodium- filled spent-fuel storage tank. Although it
resumed some operation in 1989, troubles recurred, and from 1989
through the summer of 1995 operation of Superphenix has been
intermittent and trouble-plagued, with long periods of shutdown.
The emphasis has been shifted from operation of Superphenix as a
breeder reactor to its use for study of the safety of sodium-cooled
fast reactors and the destruction of heavy elements in fast reactors.
In early summer 1997 French government took a decision to
shutdown SuperPhenix and this decision was realized in 1998.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 60
Russia has one LMFBR in operation (BN-60) and Kazakhstan has
recently shutdown its BN-600 LMFBR. Japan has completed a
280-MWe prototype LMFBR - Monju, but its operation was set
back in December 1995 by a leak of the sodium coolant and a fire-
like chemical reaction of sodium with the air.
The United States breeder reactor program has been marked by
indecision and opposition, with successive projects started and
abandoned. The latest apparent casualty was the main U.S. breeder-
related project of the past decade – the investigation at Argonne
National Laboratory of fast LMRs as part of the integral fast reactor
program. Advocates of this program stressed its potential to offer a
high degree of safety against reactor accidents and to destroy
nuclear wastes in an on-line process. The breeding potential was
often secondary in these arguments, and the planned LMR need not
have operated as a breeder, namely, with a conversion ratio greater
than unity. Nonetheless, the basic configuration of the system was
similar to that of a breeder reactor.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 61
Generation IV - Initiative
Neutron
Spectrum
Fuel
Cycle

Size

Applications

R&D
Sodium Fast
Reactor (SFR)
Fast Closed Med to
Large
Electricity,
Actinide Mgmt.
Advanced Recycle
Lead-alloy Fast
Reactor (LFR)
Fast Closed Small
to
Large
Electricity,
Hydrogen
Production
Fuels, Materials
compatibility
Gas-Cooled Fast
Reactor (GFR)
Fast Closed Med Electricity,
Hydrogen, AM
Fuels, Materials,
Safety
Very High Temp.
Gas Reactor
(VHTR)
Thermal Open Med Electricity,
Hydrogen,
Process Heat
Fuels, Materials,
H
2
production
Supercritical Water
Reactor (SCWR)
Thermal,
Fast
Open,
Closed
Large Electricity Materials, Safety
Molten Salt Reactor
(MSR)
Thermal Closed Large Electricity,
Hydrogen, AM
Fuel, Fuel
treatment,
Materials, Safety
and Reliability
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 62
The END
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 63
Classifications of Reactors
Thermal Reactors and Fast Reactors
Reactors designed to operate with slow, thermalized neutrons (to
take advantage of increase of cross-sections with neutron energy
decrease) are termed thermal reactors. However, it is also
possible to operate a reactor with ”fast” neutrons, at energies in
the neighborhood of 1 MeV or higher. These reactors are called
fast-neutron reactors or just fast reactors. The only prominent
example of a fast reactor is the liquid-metal breeder reactor.

Homogeneous and Heterogeneous Reactors
All reactors used today for power generation are
HETEROGENEOUS, i.e. fuel, coolant and/or moderator are
physically different entities with non-uniform and anisotropic
composition.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 64
The homogeneous reactor, was defined as ”a reactor whose small-
scale composition is uniform and isotropic”.
One variant of this was known as the aqueous homogenous
reactor because the fuel was mixed with water (H
2
O or D
2
O). In
the so-called homogeneous reactor experiment, two small
reactors, called HRE-1 and HRE-2, were built at Oak Ridge
National Laboratory (ORNL) in the 1950s. For HRE-2, the fluid
was uranyl sulfate (UO
2
SO
4
) in heavy water (D
2
O), with the
uranium highly enriched in
235
U. This program had the potential
of developing a thermal breeder reactor, but although HRE-2
operated uninterruptedly for over 100 days at 5 MW
el
, some
difficulties developed, and the program was dropped in favor of
alternative liquid-fuel projects.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 65
One alternative was the molten-salt reactor. The fluid was a
mixture of fluoride compounds, including the fissile component
235
UF
4
and the fertile component ThF
4
. After initial operation,
233
UF
4
was successfully tried as an alternative to
235
UF
4
. Like
HRE-2, this reactor was designed to be a thermal breeder
reactor. There was initial success in the reactor operation, but a
decision was made in the 1960s to abandon development of
thermal breeders in favor of fast breeder reactors. A further
homogenous reactor approach, a liquid- metal thermal breeder
using uranium compounds in molten bismuth, was also
investigated but was abandoned without construction of even a
test reactor. At present there is no prospect in sight of a major
program to develop homogenous reactors, with an exception of
molten salt accelerator-driven concept.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 66
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 67
Superphenix
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 68
The END
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 69
Fuels

Few ”natural” nuclides that can be used as reactor fuels
Uranium (Z=92). This is the main fuel in actual use, especially
235
U
which is fissile. In addition,
238
U is important in reactors, primarily
as a fertile fuel for
239
Pu production, and
233
U could be used as a
fissile fuel, formed by neutron capture in
232
Th.
Protactinium (Z=91). The longest-lived isotope of Pa (
231
Pa) has a
half-life of 3.3 x10
4
yr, and therefore there is essentially no Pa in
nature. Further, there is no stable A =230 nuclide that could be used
to produce
231
Pa in a reactor.
Thorium (Z=90). Thorium is found entirely as
232
Th, which is not
fissile (for thermal neutrons). It can be used as a fertile fuel for
production of fissile
233
U.



HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 70
Moderators
The options for moderating materials are limited:
Hydrogen (Z=l). The isotopes
1
H and
2
H are widely used as
moderators, in the form of light (ordinary) water and heavy water,
respectively.
Helium (Z=2). The isotopes
3
He and
4
He are not used, because
helium is a gas, and excessive pressures would be required to obtain
adequate helium densities for a practical moderator. Moreover
3
He
absorbs neutrons very strongly (see lecture about detectors)
Lithium (Z=3). The isotope
6
Li (7.5% abundant) has a large
neutron-absorption cross section, making lithium impractical as a
moderator.
Beryllium (Z=4).
9
Be has been used to a limited extent as a
moderator, especially in some early reactors. It can be used in the
form of beryllium oxide, BeO. Beryllium is expensive and toxic.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 71
Boron (Z=5). The very large neutron-absorption cross section in
10
B (20% abundant) makes boron impossible as a moderator.
Carbon (Z=6). Carbon in the form of graphite is widely used as a
moderator. It is important that the graphite be pure, free of elements
that have high absorption cross sections for neutrons.
There are no advantages in considering elements heavier than
carbon.
With natural uranium, it is not possible to use light water and it is
common practice to use heavy water or graphite, which have
particularly high moderating ratios.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 72
Coolants
The main function of the coolant in any generating plant is to
transfer energy from the hot fuel to the electrical turbine, either
directly or through intermediate steps. During normal reactor
operation, cooling is an intrinsic aspect of energy transfer. In a
nuclear reactor, cooling has a special importance, because
radioactive decay causes continued heat production even after the
reactor is shut down and electricity generation has stopped. It is still
essential to maintain cooling to avoid melting the reactor core, and
in some types of reactor accidents (e.g., the accident at Three Mile
Island) cooling is the critical issue. The coolant can be either a
liquid or a gas. For thermal reactors, the most common coolants are
light water, heavy water, helium, and carbon dioxide. The type of
coolant is commonly used to designate the type of reactor. Hence,
the characterization of reactors as light water reactors (LWRs),
heavy water reactors (HWRs), and gas-cooled reactors (GCRs).
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 73
The coolant may also serve as a moderator, as is the case for
LWRs and HWRs. In gas-cooled reactors, the density of the
coolant is too low to permit it to serve as a moderator, and
graphite is used. Fast reactors, in which fission is to occur
without moderation, require a coolant that has a relatively high
atomic mass number (A). Generically, these reactors are termed
liquid-metal reactors, because the coolant is a liquid metal,
most commonly sodium (A =23).
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 74
Two commonly used control materials are cadmium and boron. The
isotope
113
Cd, which is 12.2% abundant in natural cadmium, has a
thermal – neutron capture cross section of 20,000 b. The isotope
10
B, 19.9% abundant in natural boron, has a thermal absorption
cross section of 3800 b. Cadmium and boron are effective materials
for reducing the reactivity of the reactor.
Cadmium is commonly used in the form of control rods, which can
be inserted or withdrawn as needed. Boron can be used in a control
rod, made, for example, of boron steel, or it can be introduced in
soluble form in the water of water-cooled reactors to regulate
reactor operation. It is also possible to use other materials. Control
rods for pressurized water reactors (PWRs) commonly use boron in
the form of boron carbide (B
4
C) or cadmium in a silver – indium
alloy containing 5% cadmium. Control rods for boiling water
reactors (BWRs) commonly use boron carbide.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 75
A sophisticated control variant is the so-called burnable poison,
incorporated into the fuel itself. During the three years or so that
the fuel is in the reactor, the
235
U or other fissile material in the
fuel is partially consumed, and fission product poisons are
produced. The burnable poison helps to even the performance of
the fuel over this time period. It is a material with a large
absorption cross section, which is consumed by neutron capture as
the fuel is used. The decrease in burnable poison content with
time can be tailored to compensate for the decrease in
235
U and the
buildup of fission fragment poisons. Boron and gadolinium can be
used as burnable poisons.
Control materials are needed to regulate reactor operation and
provide a means for rapid shutdown. Boron and cadmium are
particularly good control materials because of their high cross
sections for the absorption of thermal neutrons. These control
materials are usually used in the form of rods.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 76
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 77
Potential of
233
U for a Thermal Breeder Reactor
The number of neutrons produced is significantly higher for
233
U
(q=2.296) than for
235
U. In early 1945 Eugene Wigner’s group in
Chicago envisaged a cycle in which
233
U is produced initially in a
reactor with
235
U as the fissile fuel and
232
Th as the fertile fuel.
Subsequently, a
233
U –
232
Th cycle could in principle be self-
sustaining. Not only is v higher for
233
U than for
235
U, but the
capture cross section is significantly higher for
232
Th than for
238
U
at thermal energies, making the conversion ratio higher than in the
235
U-
238
U cycle.
However, while thermal breeders based on
233
U are in principle
possible, thermal breeders were abandoned in favor of the fast
breeder reactor. It is conceivable that interest in thermal breeders
could revive, but at present the relatively few breeder reactor
development programs in the world are all based on fast breeders.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 78
High Conversion Ratios without Breeding
If breeding is not achieved with thermal reactors, a high conversion
ratio can still be desirable. One motivation could be plutonium
production. Another motivation is the extension of fuel resources.
As the conversion ratio increases, the energy output increases for a
given original
235
U content. A high conversion ratio means a high
ratio of capture in
238
U to absorption in
235
U. This must be
accomplished without losing criticality. Greater losses of neutrons
to
238
U can be compensated for by smaller losses in the moderator.
The use of carbon instead of light water as a moderator is favorable
on two counts, if a high conversion ratio is desired (in addition to
the advantage that with a carbon moderator it is possible to use
natural uranium). Because carbon is a less effective moderator than
water, more collisions are required to reach thermal energies, and
therefore there is more possibility of neutron capture in
238
U at
intermediate energies.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 79
Further, because of the low neutron-capture cross section in
12
C, the
loss of thermal neutrons to absorption will be less for carbon than for
light water. Together, this means a higher conversion ratio. It may be
noted that reactors designed with production of weapons-grade
plutonium in mind, as either the main or an auxiliary function, have
been mostly graphite- moderated. Examples include the Windscale
plant in England, the plutonium production reactors at Hanford, and
the RBMK reactors built in the USSR.
The conversion ratio is higher in a heavy water reactor than in a light
water reactor for much the same reasons as for a graphite moderator.
Again, heavy-water is a less effective moderator than light water, and
it has a lower capture cross section for thermal neutrons. For both
graphite-moderated and heavy water reactors, there have been
suggestions that the
232
Th –
233
U cycle be used, to further increase
conversion and extend the life of the uranium fuel, even without
breeding.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 80
To avoid thermalization of the neutrons, fast breeder reactors use a
coolant with high mass number A to reduce moderation. Liquid
metals have the best combination of high A and favorable heat-
transfer properties, and the fast breeder reactors in actual use or
under construction are liquid-metal fast breeder reactors (LMFBR).
The standard choice for the coolant is liquid sodium (
23
Na).
The fuel is made of pellets of mixed plutonium and uranium oxides,
PuO
2
(about 20%) and UO
2
(about 80%). Uranium depleted in
235
U
is commonly used, it being available as a residue from earlier
enrichment. The fission cross section for Pu is between 1.5 and 2.0 b
over virtually the entire fast-neutron region (from 0.01 to 6 MeV),
and therefore fission in
239
Pu is much more important than fission in
238
U. The most probable fast-neutron reactions in U are inelastic
scattering, which produces lower energy neutrons, and capture,
which produces
239
Pu.
HT2005: Reactor Physics T13: Reactor Types 81
Fast Breeder Reactors
Plutonium as Fuel for Fast Breeders
The fast breeder reactor relies on a chain reaction in which the
neutrons are not thermalized but instead produce fission at relatively
high energies. If
239
Pu is the fissile fuel, this has the advantage of a
relatively large fission cross section sf and a relatively large number
of neutrons per fission event (high v and q). For 1.0-MeV neutrons
on 239Pu, o
f
=1.7 b, and the ratio (a) of the capture cross section to
the fission cross section is less than 0.03. The low value of this ratio
means that almost all absorption in 239Pu leads to fission (q=v=3.0).
In contrast, the fission cross section in
235
U is 1.2 b at 1 MeV, and q
is only 2.3. With about three neutrons per fission, breeding with
239
Pu is obtained if 1 neutron is used for continuing the chain
reaction, 1+ for breeding, and 1- for losses. It has been shown that it
is quite possible to achieve this.