A significant amount of experience has accumulated from liquid metal (particularly sodium) cooled fast reactor operation. Twenty LMFRs, developed over the last 50 years, have been constructed and operated, resulting in nearly 310 reactor-years of operation (IAEA-TECDOC-1289, 2002). These include major large-scale prototype and demon­stration LMFRs and experimental fast flux test reactors.

Fast reactor development is being delayed in countries with relatively slow energy consumption growth and significant fossil fuel resources. However in some countries, with more rapid growth, or with limited uranium or fossil fuel resource, there is still interest in fast reactors for power generation. There is also a more general interest in fast reactors for plutonium burning, minor actinide transmutation and also for non-power producing nuclear heat applications. The latter topics are considered in separate chapters later in the book.

The countries where there is still a significant development programme in LMFRs include France, India, Japan and the Russian Federation. Other countries including Korea and China also have an interest in LMFRs.

In this chapter, some of the proposed designs that are being considered are summarised (Table 12.5). The designs that meet the more stringent safety requirements and likely to be competitive against LWRs for energy generation include the European Fast Reactor (EFR), the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) from India, the Demonstration Fast Breeder Reactor (DFBR) from Japan and the BN-800 from the Russian Federation.

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