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Supervision and Safety of Complex Systems by Jean Arlat, Yves Vandenboomgaerde, Nada Matta

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Chapter 3Towards Fourth-generationNuclear Reactors 1

 

 

 

3.1. Context

In the context of increasing energy needs, an increasing number of countries want to integrate nuclear energy into their energy mix (which will result in a decrease in green house gases emission and avoid the reliance on fossil resources that are progressively being exhausted).

This “nuclear rebirth” should lead to a greater pressure on uranium ore. Thus it must be accompanied by a policy of resource preservation. This is one of the big stakes in fourth-generation nuclear reactors, which appears to be the keystone on which tomorrow's nuclear industry will be able to be built.

This fourth generation will be fast neutron reactors that are able to transform a large portion of uranium 238 into plutonium 239, and can thus be used for electricity generation. Through this transformation it becomes possible to use not just 0.5–1.0% of natural uranium, but >90% for the purposes of electricity generation. It also enables us to consume important stocks of depleted and reprocessed uranium that alone could supply the current level of electricity production in France for a few thousand years. The world “availability” in primary fissile resources can thus be multiplied by 100. These reactors also enable us to recycle plutonium by taking advantage of its energy potential.

The other big stake in fourth-generation reactors is the facilitation of the management of nuclear waste by decreasing the volume and intrinsic long-term ...

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