The Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) is a fourth-generation fast nuclear reactor design that offers more efficiency and safety, while generating 1,000 times less waste than current light-water reactors, the predominant designs used in the US. It uses existing nuclear waste for fuel. The energy needs of the US can be supplied for over 1,000 years just using the existing nuclear waste now in storage.
1. Proven to be reliable and safe over almost 50 years of operational experience
- Ran for 30 years in the USA without any mishaps
- Chernobyl and TMI scenarios were tested on the IFR: the IFR reactor shut itself down w/o human intervention or active safety systems.
- Russians have been running commercially for 30 years without problem (BN-600)
- Passively safe (guaranteed by the physics). Does not require electricity, operator intervention, or active safety systems to shut down if it overheats.
2. The waste has 1,000 times less long-term radioactivity per unit of power than LWR (waste meaning what is no longer usable in the reactor).
3. Uses existing nuclear waste (DU, decommissioned bombs) for fuel. A variety of fuels can be used (any actinide), not just uranium.
4. Meltdown extremely unlikely because the coolant isn’t under pressure and because fast reactors stop working when the fuel heats up whereas LWRs run away. Worst scenario is power plant is wrecked. In most all standard disaster scenarios, nothing happens. In the worst possible scenario, radiation contamination would be limited to the site.
5. Because it is so efficient, it can generate power until the end of time (until the Sun goes super nova) using resources we’ve already identified at very low price (comparable to coal), independent of the cost of uranium.
6. Recycles the radioactive actinides in the reactor. The minimal amount of waste that is left over is safe (natural levels) after only 500 years (this is several orders of magnitude less time than for conventional LWR reactors). A 1GWe reactor will produce about 1 ton of waste (fission products) per year which is two milk crates if compacted. By contrast, a coal plant of the same electrical output produces 150,000 times as much waste by weight as well as 9 million metric tons per year of CO2.
7. Public overwhelmingly in favor when facts are explained (audience shifted from 25% pro nuclear to 75% after the Pandora’s Promise film at Sundance which is a predominately anti-nuclear audience).
8. Can be built very quickly… most of the nuclear reactors in the US (which provide 20% of our power) were built over a 10 year period decades ago. Imagine what a focused sustained effort (not subject to constantly changing politics) could accomplish today.
9. Doesn’t increase proliferation risk because it never separates out pure plutonium from other actinides which makes the fuel very unattractive for building bombs. There are well known and easier ways to make a bomb than to use material from a fast reactor. Fast reactors arguably make us safer because they allow us to get rid of the fissile material in decommissioned nuclear bombs.
10. In 2001, as part of the Generation IV roadmap, the DOE tasked a 242 person team of scientists from DOE, UC Berkeley, MIT, Stanford, ANL, LLNL, Toshiba, Westinghouse, Duke, EPRI, and other institutions to evaluate 19 of the best reactor designs on 27 different criteria. The IFR ranked #1 in their study which was released April 9, 2002
11. Invented and built Designed by the top nuclear scientists of the US Government at Argonne
12. Existing nuclear waste (bombs, DU, and other actinide waste products) can power the US for 1,000 years without any new additional mining of uranium.
13. Using fast reactors, there is more energy in the trace uranium in the coal than we get from burning the coal. Extracting uranium from coal ash is on the verge of being economically competitive.
This information was reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Yoon Chang.