PRISM (reactor)

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Drawing of the PRISM Reactor GE-Hitachi-Prism-Reactor.jpg
Drawing of the PRISM Reactor

PRISM (Power Reactor Innovative Small Module, sometimes S-PRISM from SuperPRISM) is a nuclear power plant design by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH).

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy American nuclear technology company

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) is a provider of advanced reactors and nuclear services. It is headquartered in Wilmington, North Carolina, United States. Established in June 2007, GEH is a global nuclear alliance created by General Electric and Hitachi. In Japan, the alliance is Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy. In November 2015, Jay Wileman was appointed CEO.


The S-PRISM represents GEH's Generation IV reactor solution to closing the nuclear fuel cycle and is also part of its Advanced Recycling Center (ARC) proposition [1] to U.S. Congress to deal with nuclear waste. [2] S-PRISM is a commercial implementation of the Integral Fast Reactor developed by Argonne National Laboratory between 1984 and 1994.

Generation IV reactor classification of nuclear reactors

Generation IV reactors are a set of nuclear reactor designs currently being researched for commercial applications by the Generation IV International Forum, with technology readiness levels varying between the level requiring a demonstration, to economical competitive implementation. They are motivated by a variety of goals including improved safety, sustainability, efficiency, and cost.

Nuclear fuel cycle Process of manufacturing and consuming nuclear fuel

The nuclear fuel cycle, also called nuclear fuel chain, is the progression of nuclear fuel through a series of differing stages. It consists of steps in the front end, which are the preparation of the fuel, steps in the service period in which the fuel is used during reactor operation, and steps in the back end, which are necessary to safely manage, contain, and either reprocess or dispose of spent nuclear fuel. If spent fuel is not reprocessed, the fuel cycle is referred to as an open fuel cycle ; if the spent fuel is reprocessed, it is referred to as a closed fuel cycle.

Argonne National Laboratory Science and engineering research national laboratory in Lamont, IL, United States

Argonne National Laboratory is a science and engineering research national laboratory operated by the University of Chicago Argonne LLC for the United States Department of Energy located in Lemont, Illinois, outside Chicago. It is the largest national laboratory by size and scope in the Midwest.

It is a sodium-cooled fast breeder reactor, based on the Experimental Breeder Reactor II (EBR-II) design, scaled up by a factor of ten. [3]

A liquid metal cooled nuclear reactor, liquid metal fast reactor or LMFR is an advanced type of nuclear reactor where the primary coolant is a liquid metal. Liquid metal cooled reactors were first adapted for nuclear submarine use but have also been extensively studied for power generation applications.

Experimental Breeder Reactor II

Experimental Breeder Reactor-II (EBR-II) is a sodium-cooled fast reactor designed, built and operated by Argonne National Laboratory at the National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho. It was shut down in 1994. Custody of the reactor was transferred to Idaho National Laboratory after its founding in 2005.

The design utilizes reactor modules, each having a power output of 311  MWe, to enable factory fabrication at low cost.

In an identical fashion to the EBR-II that it is based on, the reactor would transition to a much lower power level whenever temperatures rise significantly, moreover the reactor vessel modules are pool type, as opposed to loop type, with the pool conferring substantial thermal inertia and the final key safety feature includes a "RVACS", which is a passive reactor vessel air cooling system to remove decay heat. These safety systems are passive and therefore always operate and are to prevent core damage when no other means of heat removal are available. [4]

Passive nuclear safety is a design approach for safety features, implemented in a nuclear reactor, that does not require any active intervention on the part of the operator or electrical/electronic feedback in order to bring the reactor to a safe shutdown state, in the event of a particular type of emergency. Such design features tend to rely on the engineering of components such that their predicted behaviour would slow down, rather than accelerate the deterioration of the reactor state; they typically take advantage of natural forces or phenomena such as gravity, buoyancy, pressure differences, conduction or natural heat convection to accomplish safety functions without requiring an active power source. Many older common reactor designs use passive safety systems to a limited extent, rather, relying on active safety systems such as diesel powered motors. Some newer reactor designs feature more passive systems; the motivation being that they are highly reliable and reduce the cost associated with the installation and maintenance of systems that would otherwise require multiple trains of equipment and redundant safety class power supplies in order the achieve the same level of reliability. However, weak driving forces that power many passive safety features can pose significant challenges to effectiveness of a passive system, particularly in the short term following an accident.

Decay heat heat released as a result of radioactive decay

Decay heat is the heat released as a result of radioactive decay. This heat is produced as an effect of radiation on materials: the energy of the alpha, beta or gamma radiation is converted into the thermal movement of atoms.

Nuclear meltdown severe nuclear reactor accident that results in core damage from overheating

A nuclear meltdown is a severe nuclear reactor accident that results in core damage from overheating. The term nuclear meltdown is not officially defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency or by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It has been defined to mean the accidental melting of the core of a nuclear reactor, however, and is in common usage a reference to the core's either complete or partial collapse.

Integral fast reactor

The integral fast reactor was developed at the West Campus of the Argonne National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho and was the intended successor to the Experimental Breeder Reactor II, which achieved first criticality in 1965 and ran for 30 years. The Integral Fast Reactor project was shut down by the U.S. Congress in 1994.

Idaho Falls, Idaho City in Idaho, United States

Idaho Falls is a city in and the county seat of Bonneville County, Idaho, United States, and the state's largest city outside the Boise metropolitan area. As of the 2010 census, the population of Idaho Falls was 56,813, with a metro population of 133,265.

United States Congress Legislature of the United States

The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, and consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Both senators and representatives are chosen through direct election, though vacancies in the Senate may be filled by a gubernatorial appointment. Congress has 535 voting members: 435 representatives and 100 senators. The House of Representatives has six non-voting members representing Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia in addition to its 435 voting members. Although they cannot vote in the full house, these members can address the house, sit and vote in congressional committees, and introduce legislation.

Possible US demonstration reactor

In October 2010, GEH signed a memorandum of understanding with the operators of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Savannah River site, which should allow the construction of a demonstration reactor prior to the design receiving full NRC licensing approval. [5]

UK interest in PRISM

In October 2011, The Independent reported that the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and senior advisers within the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) had asked for technical and financial details of the PRISM, partly as a means of reducing the country's plutonium stockpile. [6] In July 2012, GEH submitted a feasibility report to the NDA showing that the PRISM could provide a cost-effective way of quickly dealing with the UK's plutonium stockpile. The feasibility report includes an assessment from the consultancy firm DBD Limited suggesting there are "no fundamental impediment(s)" to the licensing of the PRISM in the UK. [7] [8] A 2012 Guardian article pointed out that a new generation of fast reactors such as the PRISM "could dispose of the waste problem, reducing the threat of radiation and nuclear proliferation, and at the same time generate vast amounts of low-carbon energy". David J. C. MacKay, chief scientist at the DECC, was quoted as saying that British plutonium contains enough energy to run the country's electricity grid for 500 years. [9]

In the years that were to follow, analysis refocused on metal chloride e.g. Plutonium(III) chloride, to aid in greater "nuclear waste" closed-fuel cycle capabilities, the Stable Salt Reactor (SSR) concept promoted by MOLTEX, was found to be the most competitive for Small modular reactor development by a British-based consultancy firm Energy Process Development in 2015. [10] [11]

Possible role in the Versatile Test Reactor program

In 2018 PRISM was selected by Batelle to support the DOE decision making on the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) program. [12] In February 2019, DOE expected to complete the initial stage of deciding whether to proceed with the VTR within a few weeks. [13]

See also

Related Research Articles

Nuclear reactor device to initiate and control a sustained nuclear chain reaction

A nuclear reactor, formerly known as an atomic pile, is a device used to initiate and control a self-sustained nuclear chain reaction. Nuclear reactors are used at nuclear power plants for electricity generation and in nuclear marine propulsion. Heat from nuclear fission is passed to a working fluid, which in turn runs through steam turbines. These either drive a ship's propellers or turn electrical generators' shafts. Nuclear generated steam in principle can be used for industrial process heat or for district heating. Some reactors are used to produce isotopes for medical and industrial use, or for production of weapons-grade plutonium. As of early 2019, the IAEA reports there are 454 nuclear power reactors and 226 nuclear research reactors in operation around the world.

Breeder reactor type of fast neutron reactor that produces more fissile material than it consumes

A breeder reactor is a nuclear reactor that generates more fissile material than it consumes. Breeder reactors achieve this because their neutron economy is high enough to create more fissile fuel than they use, by irradiation of a fertile material, such as uranium-238 or thorium-232 that is loaded into the reactor along with fissile fuel. Breeders were at first found attractive because they made more complete use of uranium fuel than light water reactors, but interest declined after the 1960s as more uranium reserves were found, and new methods of uranium enrichment reduced fuel costs.

Phénix nuclear power plant

Phénix was a small-scale prototype fast breeder reactor, located at the Marcoule nuclear site, near Orange, France. It was a pool-type liquid-metal fast breeder reactor cooled with liquid sodium. It generated 590 MW of thermal power, and had a breeding ratio of 1.16, but normally had to be stopped for refueling operations every two months. Phénix continued operating after the closure of the subsequent full-scale prototype Superphénix in 1997. After 2004, its main use was investigation of transmutation of nuclear waste while also generating some electricity. Phénix was shut down in 2009.

Fast-neutron reactor nuclear reactor in which the fission chain reaction is sustained by fast neutrons

A fast-neutron reactor (FNR) or simply a fast reactor is a category of nuclear reactor in which the fission chain reaction is sustained by fast neutrons, as opposed to thermal neutrons used in thermal-neutron reactors. Such a reactor needs no neutron moderator, but requires fuel that is relatively rich in fissile material when compared to that required for a thermal-neutron reactor.

Idaho National Laboratory United States Department of Energy complex located in the high desert of eastern Idaho

Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is one of the national laboratories of the United States Department of Energy and is managed by the Battelle Energy Alliance. While the laboratory does other research, historically it has been involved with nuclear research. Much of current knowledge about how nuclear reactors behave and misbehave was discovered at what is now Idaho National Laboratory. John Grossenbacher, former INL director, said, "The history of nuclear energy for peaceful application has principally been written in Idaho".

Integral fast reactor

The integral fast reactor is a design for a nuclear reactor using fast neutrons and no neutron moderator. IFR would breed more fuel and is distinguished by a nuclear fuel cycle that uses reprocessing via electrorefining at the reactor site.

Molten salt reactor class of nuclear fission reactors with molten salt as the primary coolant or the fuel

A molten salt reactor (MSR) is a class of nuclear fission reactor in which the primary nuclear reactor coolant and/or the fuel is a molten salt mixture. MSRs offer multiple advantages over conventional nuclear power plants, although for historical reasons, they have not been deployed.

Vallecitos Nuclear Center nuclear power plant

The Vallecitos Nuclear Center is a nuclear research facility, and the site of a former GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy electricity-generating nuclear power plant in unincorporated Alameda County, California, United States. The facility is approximately 30 miles (48 km) east of San Francisco, under jurisdiction of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Region IV.

Sodium-cooled fast reactor

A sodium-cooled fast reactor is a fast neutron reactor cooled by liquid sodium.

BN-600 reactor russian reactor type from the BN family; fast breeder, cooled with sodium

The BN-600 reactor is a sodium-cooled fast breeder reactor, built at the Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Station, in Zarechny, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia. Designed to generate electrical power of 600 MW in total, the plant dispatches 560 MW to the Middle Urals power grid. It has been in operation since 1980 and represents an evolution on the preceding BN-350 reactor. In 2014, its larger sister reactor, the BN-800 reactor began operation.

Pyroprocessing is a process in which materials are subjected to high temperatures in order to bring about a chemical or physical change. Pyroprocessing includes such terms as ore-roasting, calcination and sintering. Equipment for pyroprocessing includes kilns, electric arc furnaces and reverberatory furnaces.

Reactor-grade plutonium/RGPu is the isotopic grade of plutonium that is found in spent nuclear fuel after the primary fuel, that of Uranium-235 that a nuclear power reactor uses, has burnt up. The Uranium-238 from which most of the plutonium isotopes derive, by neutron capture, is frequently found alongside the U-235 fuel in civilian reactors, in the form of Low enriched uranium.

The Reduced-Moderation Water Reactor (RMWR), also referred to as the Resource-renewable BWR, is a proposed type of light water moderated nuclear power reactor, featuring some characteristics of a fast neutron reactor, thereby combining the established and proven technology of light water reactors with the desired features of fast neutron reactors. The RMWR concept builds upon the Advanced Boiling Water Reactor and is under active development in theoretical studies, particularly in Japan. Hitachi and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency are both involved in research.

Small modular reactors (SMRs) are a type of nuclear fission reactor which are smaller than conventional reactors, and manufactured at a plant and brought to a site to be assembled. Modular reactors allow for less on-site construction, increased containment efficiency, and heightened nuclear materials security. SMRs have been proposed as a way to bypass financial barriers that have plagued conventional nuclear reactors.

Stable salt reactor

The stable salt reactor (SSR) is a nuclear reactor design proposed by Moltex Energy Ltd based in the United Kingdom and Canada.

Versatile Test Reactor

The Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) is a project currently in development by the US Department of Energy to build a fast-neutron test reactor by 2026.


  1. Testimony to the U.S. Congress: Full Committee Hearing - Advancing Technology for Nuclear Fuel Recycling: What Should Our Research, Development and Demonstration Strategy Be?
  2. GE Energy press release. June 18, 2009
  3. Stuart Nathan (13 May 2013). "Prism project: A proposal for the UK's problem plutonium". The Engineer . Retrieved 29 November 2013.
  4. "Technical Report: Summary of advanced LMR (Liquid Metal Reactor) evaluations: PRISM (Power Reactor Inherently Safe Module) and SAFR (Sodium Advanced Fast Reactor). DOI: 10.2172/5491968".
  5. "Prototype Prism proposed for Savannah River". World Nuclear News. 2010-10-28. Retrieved 2010-11-04.
  6. Connor, Steve (2011-10-28). "New life for old idea that could dissolve our nuclear waste". The Independent. London. Retrieved 2011-10-30.
  7. Clark, Duncan (2012-07-09). "Nuclear waste-burning reactor moves a step closer to reality". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2012-07-12.
  8. "World's first nuclear waste-burning PRISM reactor moves a step closer in the UK". Mark Lynas. 2012-07-09. Retrieved 2012-07-12.
  9. Pearce, Fred (2012-07-30). "Are fast-breeder reactors the answer to our nuclear waste nightmare?". The Guardian. London.
  10. Europe: Moltex’ Stable Salt Reactor
  11. Moltex Energy sees UK, Canada SMR licensing as springboard to Asia Jun 28, 2016
  12. "GE Hitachi and PRISM Selected for U.S. Department of Energy's Versatile Test Reactor Program". GE Newsroom. General Electric. November 13, 2018. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  13. Toth, Jacqueline (February 11, 2019). "DOE Nearing Decision Checkpoint on Versatile Test Reactor". Morning Consult. Retrieved 27 May 2019.