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Sodium-Cooled Fast Reactor (SFR)

The Sodium-cooled fast reactor or SFR is a Generation IV reactor project to design an advanced fast neutron reactor.

It builds on two closely related existing projects, the LMFBR and the Integral Fast Reactor, with the objective of producing a fast-spectrum, sodium-cooled reactor and a closed fuel cycle for efficient management of actinides and conversion of fertile uranium-238.

The reactors are intended for use in nuclear power plants to produce nuclear power from nuclear fuel.


Fuel cycle

The fuel cycle employs a full actinide recycle with two major options: One is an intermediate-size (150–600 MWe) sodium-cooled reactor with uranium-plutonium-minor-actinide-zirconium metal alloy fuel, supported by a fuel cycle based on pyrometallurgical reprocessing in facilities integrated with the reactor. The second is a medium to large (500–1,500 MWe) sodium-cooled reactor with mixed uranium-plutonium oxide fuel, supported by a fuel cycle based upon advanced aqueous processing at a central location serving a number of reactors. The outlet temperature is approximately 510–550 degrees Celsius for both.

Sodium as a coolant

Water is difficult to use as a coolant for a fast reactor because water acts as a neutron moderator that slows the fast neutrons into thermal neutrons. While it may be possible to use supercritical water as a coolant in a fast reactor, this would require a very high pressure. In contrast, sodium atoms are much heavier than both the oxygen and hydrogen atoms found in water, and therefore the neutrons lose less energy in collisions with sodium atoms. Sodium also need not be pressurized since its boiling point is higher than the reactor's operating temperature. A disadvantage of sodium is its chemical reactivity, which requires special precautions to prevent and suppress fires. If sodium comes into contact with water it explodes, and with air, it will burn.

Design goals

The operating temperature should not exceed the melting temperature of the fuel. Fuel-to-cladding chemical interaction (FCCI) has to be designed against. FCCI is eutectic melting between the fuel and the cladding; uranium, plutonium, and lanthanum (a fission product) inter-diffuse with the iron of the cladding. The alloy that forms has a low eutectic melting temperature. FCCI causes the cladding to reduce in strength and could eventually rupture. The amount of transuranic transmutation is limited by the production of plutonium from uranium. A design work-around has been proposed to have an inert matrix. Magnesium oxide has been proposed as the inert matrix. Magnesium oxide has an entire order of magnitude smaller probability or interacting with neutrons (thermal and fast) than the elements like iron.[1]

Actinides Half-life Fission products
244Cm 241Pu f 250Cf 243Cmf 10–30 y 137Cs 90Sr 85Kr
232 f 238Pu f is for
69–90 y 151Sm nc➔
4n 249Cf  f 242Amf 141–351 No fission product
has half-life 102
to 2×105 years
241Am 251Cf  f 431–898
240Pu 229Th 246Cm 243Am 5–7 ky
4n 245Cmf 250Cm 239Pu f 8–24 ky
233U    f 230Th 231Pa 32–160
4n+1 234U 4n+3 211–290 99Tc 126Sn 79Se
248Cm 242Pu 340–373 Long-lived fission products
237Np 4n+2 1–2 my 93Zr 135Cs nc➔
236U 4n+1 247Cmf 6–23 107Pd 129I
244Pu 80 my >7% >5% >1% >.1%
232Th 238U 235U    f 0.7–12by fission product yield

The SFR is designed for management of high-level wastes and, in particular, management of plutonium and other actinides. Important safety features of the system include a long thermal response time, a large margin to coolant boiling, a primary system that operates near atmospheric pressure, and intermediate sodium system between the radioactive sodium in the primary system and the water and steam in the power plant. With innovations to reduce capital cost, such as making a modular design, removing a primary loop, integrating the pump and intermediate heat exchanger, or simply find better materials for construction, the SFR can be a viable technology for electricity generation.[2]

The SFR's fast spectrum also makes it possible to use available fissile and fertile materials (including depleted uranium) considerably more efficiently than thermal spectrum reactors with once-through fuel cycles.


  1. ^ S. Bays, M. Pope, B. Forget, R. Ferrer, “Transmutation Target Compositions in Heterogeneous Sodium Fast Reactor Geometries”, INL/EXT-07-13643 Rev. 1, 2008.
  2. ^ M. J. Lineberry and T. R. Allen, Argonne National Laboratory, “The Sodium-Cooled Fast Reactor (SFR)”.

See also

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