US companies to co-operate on fast reactors

8 November 2016

US-based GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Southern Nuclear Development (a subsidiary of Southern Nuclear Operating Company) are to collaborate in studying the development and licensing of advanced reactors, including GEH’s Prism sodium-cooled fast reactor, the companies said in a 31 October joint statement. The memorandum of understanding also envisages the companies agreeing to work together in future US Department of Energy advanced reactor licensing programmes.

Prism is a sodium-cooled, fast reactor design which uses a series of proven, safe and mature technologies developed both in the US and abroad, GEH said. The design has benefited from the operating experience of EBR-II, an integral fast reactor prototype which was developed by Argonne National Laboratory and operated in Idaho Falls, Idaho from 1963 to 1994. GEH said it believes that no US fast reactor technology has more testing, design or operational experience than Prism.

“On this basis, Prism seems well positioned to continue the licensing process and to generally provide a critical regulatory path for licensing of other advanced reactor technology in the US,” the company said.  GEH assumes a quantity of 178,000t of nuclear material contained in used fuel stocks worldwide, and says that, by using Prism technology on a commercialised basis, this could eventually be consumed while at the same time providing enough clean, carbon-free energy to power all global households for 200 years. 

GEH has previously proposed the Prism reactor as a possible option for managing the UK's plutonium stockpile.

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