Expert NRG publishes book about research on metal-cooled reactors


'Thermal Hydraulics Aspects of Liquid Metal Cooled Nuclear Reactors'

The book 'Thermal Hydraulics Aspects of Liquid Metal Cooled Nuclear Reactors' was published recently. In this book, NRG's Ferry Roelofs and his team describe their research into the cooling of metal-cooled reactors within the SESAME project. Roelofs gives a personal explanation.

"In 2015, NRG embarked on the four year European SESAME project. This project was co-financed by the European Commission and coordinated in partnership with the Italian ENEA. One of the most important results of this project is a book about the cooling of innovative nuclear reactors using cooling systems of liquid metals like sodium and lead. Around 30 of such reactors have been in operation worldwide. All over the world, research is being conducted into these reactors because they offer the potential of using uranium as a natural resource much more efficiently as well as significantly reducing the amount and toxicity of radioactive waste from nuclear reactors.

Writing this book brought its challenges. First, we had to set out the contours of the book. Only then could the real writing begin. You don't do something like this on your own. Many renowned experts from Europe and the United States contributed chapters or parts of chapters. Of course, everything had to be delivered on time and someone had to follow that up. I took that task upon myself at the start of the project. And that was a job in itself. I subsequently made sure that all the chapters were well aligned to each other.

It's not often that a book is written as the result of a European project. In this case, however, it gives us the opportunity to record and distribute the knowledge acquired in this project. We thus hope to accelerate developments internationally and come closer to achieving such a promising and innovative type of reactor.

Within the project, we studied the behaviour of liquid metal as a coolant for a nuclear reactor. Basically, this meant working on new models to describe the heat transport to and from liquid metal as a coolant. We studied this at various levels. From the tiniest details to the level of developing important reactor components, such as the cooling of the nuclear fuel, the cooling in the reactor vessel and ultimately the entire cooling system. To develop knowledge in these fields, experiments always go hand in hand with development and validation of advanced numerical simulation methods. By expanding knowledge and improving simulation techniques, predictions of the cooling behaviour can be made with greater accuracy. That's obviously important for the safety as well as efficient and economic use of such a reactor.

Of course, such a book can only be written by recognised experts in the field. The fact that someone from NRG may publish this book confirms our global reputation as one of the experts in knowledge about the cooling of metal-cooled reactors. That's something we can be proud of. For me, the great thing about this book is that it makes very clear that knowledge can only be expanded when there is good coordination between experiments and numerical simulations. For this we've been able to establish a good partnership in Europe.

We hope that the results published in this book will contribute to the development of one or more prototypes of such metal-cooled reactors in Europe and the world. The Belgian MYRRHA project, which is trying to realise such a reactor in Mol (around 30 km from Eindhoven), is an important user of this research. And the Italian-Romanian initiative to build a similar demonstration reactor in Romania is also a potential end user. Finally, we must mention the Swedish company LeadCold. They have a small lead-cooled reactor on the drawing board. Additionally, in America they are also working on a metal-cooled reactor. Our good relationship with our American colleagues should mean that the development of that reactor will be speeded up by this research.

The book closes with the following wise words:

Everyone believes in an experiment, except the one who performed it...
No one believes in a simulation, except the one who performed it.

This is sadly all too true and for me underlines the importance of good cooperation between the various parties. I hope to be involved in many more of projects like this and to be able to contribute to the further development and deployment of nuclear power as a clean, affordable and safe source of energy."

- Ferry Roelofs (NRG)

More information

Order Thermal Hydraulics Aspects of Liquid Metal Cooled Nuclear Reactors at Elsevier.