In February of the year under review, 34 European partners met in Petten for Archer. This European project explores the possible application of high temperature reactors in existing industrial processes. NRG’s contribution involves fuel and materials research, for example into the behaviour of graphite under extremely high temperatures in the reactor. In the year under review, research was performed to support the safety evaluation and the permit application procedure. This project has already attracted interest from the United States, Japan, China, South Korea and South Africa.

The project is worth 10.5 million euros, of which 5.4 million is funded by the European Union. Other parties involved in this project are AREVA and Westinghouse.

In September, research was started into a new type of fuel for Generation IV nuclear reactors which can recycle radioactive waste. Besides uranium and plutonium, the fuel – a ‘mixed oxide’ or MOX – also contains americium which is formed by bombarding uranium with neutrons in a nuclear reactor. Americium is one of the components from nuclear waste with a long lifespan. NRG works together with the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. The budget is around one million euros and generates around seventeen man months of work at NRG in Petten.

Armenian chain
In February 2013, NRG embarked on international research into steel samples which have been exposed to a high dose of neutron radiation in a nuclear reactor over the course of 27 years. The results of the research provide insight into the future behaviour of steel in the practical conditions of a nuclear reactor. Because this insight is a condition for a licence for long term operations, operators of nuclear power stations all over the world are interested in the results. This research is also important for the development of improved, self-repairing steel types for the new Generation IV nuclear reactors. Because these new reactors operate at very high temperatures (up to 500° C), there is the possibility that the intended steel type will repair radiation damage itself. A reactor vessel will then have a significantly longer service life.

Another research project which will provide the world with more knowledge about the ageing of reactor vessels is the LYRA experiment which was initiated by NRG together with the Joint Research Centre. In the coming years, NRG will irradiate various steel samples in the HFR with deliberately applied contaminations in differing concentrations. By bombarding the steel with these contaminations with neutrons, better insight is obtained into the behaviour of reactor vessel steel in the future.

In 2013, a neutron experiment was also prepared for the future nuclear fusion reactor ITER being built in Cadarache (France). The future heat shield around the plasma in the fusion reactor will be very heavily bombarded with neutron radiation. Before this takes place, it must be established how the wall material of ITER will behave. The experiment design has already been reported to ITER. In 2014, China and Russia will produce mock-ups of the material for the heat shield which will be subjected to radiation in the HFR from 2015.

The events in Fukushima, Japan, have raised new issues relating to reactor safety. NRG contributes to various post-Fukushima activities with its innovations in the nuclear sector. For example, it uses state-of-the-art computational fluid dynamics models to calculate hydrogen distribution and boron dilution in accident situations. Borssele nuclear power station leads the way in the optimisation of hydrogen management in accident conditions, based on the calculations produced by NRG. Following Fukushima, several nuclear power stations in Europe were closed earlier than planned. This created new decommissioning issues for which NRG has found innovative responses. By means of spark erosion and robotics, damaged nuclear fuel elements can from now on be dismantled on site in the cooling water basin without damaging the coating of the nuclear fuel particles. Deformed or damaged nuclear fuel elements can thus be removed from the shut-down power stations safely and cost effectively.

A new approach to external flood analyses has been developed and applied. By re-evaluating the reliability of flood barriers and where possible replacing the conservative assumptions in the current design by realistic approaches, an improved safety assessment is achieved. In 2013, steps were also taken to develop a model for the modelling of digital measurement and control technology in a probabilistic safety analysis. NRG is actively contributing to this within an OECD/NEA work group.

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Annual Report NRG Research Programma 2017 (English)