High and very high temperature reactor research for multipurpose energy applications
Source InformationSeptember 2011, Volume241(Issue9) Page3490To3504
Ten years ago, the European High Temperature Reactor (HTR) Technology Network (HTR-TN) launched a programme for developing HTR Technology, which expanded so far through 4 successive Euratom Framework Programmes. Many projects have been performed – in particular the RAPHAEL project in the 6th Euratom Framework Programme and presently ARCHER in the 7th – in line with the Network strategy that identified cogeneration of process heat and power as the main specific mission of HTR. HTR can indeed address the growing energy needs of industry presently fully relying on fossil fuel combustion with a CO 2 -lean generation technology, thanks to its high operating temperature and to its unique flexibility obtained from its large thermal inertia and its low power.
Relying on the legacy of the former European leadership in HTR technology, this programme has addressed specific developments required for industrial process heat applications and for increasing HTR performances (higher temperatures and fuel burn-up). Decisive achievements have been obtained concerning fuel manufacturing and irradiation behaviour, key components and their materials, safety, computer code validation and specific HTR waste (fuel and graphite) management. Key experiments have been performed or are still ongoing: irradiation of graphite, fuel and vessel materials and the corresponding post-irradiation examinations, safety tests and isotopic analyses; thermal-hydraulic tests of an Intermediate Heat Exchanger mock-up in helium; air ingress experiments for a block type core, etc. Through Euratom participation in the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), these achievements contribute to international cooperation.
HTR-TN strategy has been recently integrated by the “Sustainable Nuclear Energy Technology Platform” (SNE-TP) as one of the 3 “pillars” of its global nuclear strategy. It is also in line with the orientations and the timing of the “Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan)” for the development of CO 2 -lean energy technologies, and thus strengthens the nuclear option in a future European energy mix.
Nuclear cogeneration for industrial process heat applications is a major innovation and a major challenge, requiring large-scale demonstration to prove its industrial viability. To enable demonstration, it is necessary not only to develop an appropriate nuclear heat source, but also to develop coupling technologies and to adapt industrial processes to the coupling with a HTR. This requires a close partnership between the conventional and the nuclear technology holders as the base of a Nuclear Cogeneration Industrial Initiative.
Recently the project EUROPAIRS initiated by HTR-TN together with process heat user industries has set the bases of such a strategic partnership.