Abstract

Research on the gas-cooled fast reactor system is directed towards fulfilling the ambitious long term goals of Generation IV (Gen IV), i.e., to develop a safe, sustainable, reliable, proliferation-resistant and economic nuclear energy system. In common with other fast reactors, gas-cooled fast reactors (GFRs) have exceptional potential as sustainable energy sources, for both the utilisation of fissile material and minimisation of nuclear waste through transmutation of minor actinides. The primary goal of GFR research is to develop the system primarily to be a reliable and economic electricity generator, with good safety and sustainability characteristics. However, for the longer term, GFR retains the potential for hydrogen production and other process heat applications facilitated through a high core outlet temperature which, in this case, is not limited by the characteristics of the coolant. In this respect, GFR can inherit the non-electricity applications of the thermal HTRs in a sustainable manner in a future in which natural uranium becomes scarce. GFR research within Europe is performed directly by those states who have signed the “System Arrangement” document within the Generation IV International Forum (the GIF), specifically France and Switzerland and Euratom. Importantly, Euratom provides a route by which researchers in other European states, and other non-European affiliates, can contribute to the work of the GIF, even when these states are not signatories to the GFR System Arrangement in their own right. This paper is written from the perspective of Euratom's involvement in research on the GFR system, starting with the 5th Framework Programme (FP5) GCFR project in 2000, through the FP6 project between 2005 and 2009 and looking ahead to the proposed activities within the current 7th Framework Programme (FP7). The evolution of the GFR concept from the 1960s onwards is discussed briefly, followed by the current perceived role, objectives and progress with the Generation IV GFR system.

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