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Energy Research Advisory Board
July 1, 1988
Mr. John H. Schoettler, Chairman
Dear Mr. Schoettler:
I an plousod to forward to you the ERAB report "Assessment of Candidate Reactor Technologies for the New Production Reactor." The report reviews four ructor technologies, as requested by the Secretary of Energy, as well as criteria for the evaluation, and risks and benefits associated with each technology. The report includes a number of findings by the ERAB and identifies options that the Department could follow to obtain new production capacity.
The ERAB formed a Panol of 19 experts to help perform the assessment. The Panel provided tochnical background and current information for use by the ERAB in completing this report. The Panol Includes individuals with wide experience in the management of reactor facilities, nuclear engineoring, engineering of largo onorgy systems, safety and environmental concerns, and physics. The Panel used six additional technical experts to help evaluate the technical information that was presented by proponents for each of the reactor types. The Panel divided itself into four subpanels, each concentrating on one of the four technologies. The Department of Energy provided a technical and administrative support team of DOE and contractor staff to help organize and assimilate the information.
I have been pleased with the cooperation provided by the members of the New Production Reactor (NPR) Technology Assessment Panel, the ERAB members, and the technical and administrative support staff.
NPR TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT
The Energy Research Advisory Board (ERAB) has reviewed and assessed reactor technologies as candidates for new reactor capacity to produce tritium (and possibly plutonium) to meet U.S. requirements for nuclear weapons materials. In its assessment, the Board emphasized the equal and primary importance of producing goal quantities of tritium when needed and doing so in a safe and environmentally sound manner. Particular strengths and weaknesses of each technology were evaluated in six areas (Technology Base, Safety and Environmental, Schedule, Costs, Industrial Base, and Institutional Acceptance).
The ERAB evaluation has found that Heavy Water Reactor technology 1s the most mature technology for tritium production at the present time. Each of the technologies considered (others are the High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor, the Light Water Reactor, and the Liquid Metal Reactor) could meet the mission requirements for new production capacity with varying degrees of risk as to cost and schedule. Use of multiple reactors to provide the capacity, possibly with diverse technologies and located at different sites, would provide high production assurance, reduce uncertainties in the schedule, and minimize the risk to national security, but at increased cost. Deployment of a single reactor is the lowest cost approach but carries the operational risk of unexpected loss of all capacity for an extended period. The Board found that, with early planning, there is an opportunity to gain revenues to offset costs by the sale of steam at the site boundary for power production.
Safety is a primary consideration in the design, construction, and operation of the new reactor capacity and is of major importance to the technology selection. The Board believes that the design should take full advantage of the results of safety research to date, and that proposed safety goals and a sound safety review process will provide a level of safety that is at least equivalent to that of the best of current commercial power plants. Moreover, the advanced reactors (High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor, Liquid Metal Reactor, and such concepts as a small advanced Light Water Reactor) provide an opportunity for a potentially significant advancement in the level of safety over current commercial reactor experience.
The Energy Research Advisory Board (ERAB) has reviewed and assessed the Hoavy Water Reactor (HWR), the High Temperaturo Gas-Cooled Reactor (HTGR), the Light Water Reactor (LWR), and the Liquid Metal Reactor (LMR) as candidatos for New Production Reactor (NPR) capacity, as requested by the Socrotary of Enorgy in his lotter of January 7, 1988. A subsequent lotter of April 28, 1988 requested that duality 188uos (uso of two or more reactors for tritium production), diversity of reactor technologies, and more than one site be included in the assessment.
The ERAB reviewed the Department's proposed selection criteria for use in evaluation of the four candidate NPR technologies. For the most part, the ERAB accepted the criteria as a suitable basis for evaluation of the NPR technology. The six criteria areas are: