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Fast Breeder Reactors Essay

2076 words - 8 pages

Fast Breeder Reactors

In this report I will investigate how different breeder reactors operate, the many problems addressed by the Fast Breeder Reactor, including efficiency and cost, the disadvantages of Fast Breeder Reactors, and working examples that have been constructed throughout the world.
There is another type of modern nuclear energy, an interesting idea that will grow on you, so to speak. If one were to think of an “alternative” nuclear energy source, a pebble bed fission reactor or namely fusion reactors come to mind. The Liquid Metal Fast Breeder reactor (FBR) is the alternate “alternative” reactor. FBRs first went critical (became operational) in 1951 with the American experimental EBR-1 in Idaho. FBRs, in principle, produce more fissile material than they produce. Although they still need a blend of stable fertile material with fissile fuel, the fact that they convert this mix to a unified fissile material while generating electricity at the same time is the primary reason these reactors are appealing. The technology used for FBRs has been consistently researched in the US, USSR, France, UK, Germany, Japan, China, and India at different points in time beginning in 1949 with initial design work performed on the EBR-I in the US (Encarta-2005). Asian countries currently lead the world in the effort being invested in this type of reactor. We could see a significant number of FBRs being built within the next 25 to 50 years, as the demand for fossil fuels increases with pollution and the constant and inefficient consumption of fossil fuel supplies by all nations. Are FBRs a viable energy source for California or the US? I will discuss the atomic process that FBRs use to operate, the problems the FBR could possibly solve, the drawbacks of the FBR, and some examples of major FBRs that have been constructed.
Fast Breeder Reactors: Do They Have the Juice? Breeder Reactors 3
The fast neutron reaction (FNR) process used in FBRs is definitely innovative, but fundamentally simple. The components of a fast breeder reactor core are the following: thousands of stainless steel fuel rods with up to 20 percent Pu-239 and 80 percent U-238 or thorium, a breeder blanket of comparatively sized tubes that contain Uranium-238 Oxide, and a liquid metal for cooling purposes (Encarta-2005). The fuel rods, 6-7 mm in diameter are grouped into fuel assemblies that are about 10-15 cm across and 3-4 m long. The blanket is composed of larger rods of 1.5 cm in diameter due to requiring less cooling. The U-238 used as fuel or blanket material is eventually converted to primarily Pu-239 through two successive beta decays (Hyperphysics-2006). Neutrons that cause the fission must maintain a fast velocity, therefore a neutron-absorbing moderator is eliminated and the cooling agent also works as the moderator. The optimal cooling agent for FBRs is liquid sodium; this coolant has the advantages of a low melting point of 100 Celsius and boiling...

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