Saturday, April 7, 2007

Germany built the first pebble bed reactor

Demonstration of inherently safe AVR shutdown

The pebble bed reactor is an intrinsically safe because the chain reaction diminishes as the fuel temperature rises. This has been demonstrated. The experimental Arbeitsgemeinschaft Versuchsreaktor (AVR) was built in Germany in 1960. Dr. Rudolf Schulten was the originator of the pebble bed reactor design. The experimental AVR at the Julich Research Center operated at 46 megawatt thermal power, about 13 negawatt electric. The safety test was performed in 1970 by stopping the cooling and preventing the control rods from activating. The temperature rose, Doppler broadening absorbed neutrons in U238, the chain reaction slowed, temperatures fell, and the unit stabilized at 300 kilowatts.

HTR-300 Cooling Tower

Germany also built a second pebble bed reactor, the THTR-300, which generated 300 megawatts when it achieved full power operation in 1989. THTR stands for Thorium High Temperature Reactor; it uses thorium to enrich the uranium fuel. Thorium is fertile in that it is not itself very radioactive but can be transformed into uranium fuel. The Th232 absorbs a neutron from the chain reaction of U235 decay, and then the Th233 decays into U233, which is a fissile element that participates in the chain reaction. Thorium is three times as plentiful as uranium in the earth's crust.

In 1986 an operator error caused some of the pebbles to be fractured and the helium gas lock to be jammed. An unknown amount of radioactive materials were released. The THTR-300 was shut down in 1989 following public concerns arising from the Chernobyl accident. Since then Germany has decided to shut down all its nuclear power plants.


patrick said...

We need to get this info the the leaders immediately.

Anonymous said...

Thorium is the way to go:

Anonymous said...

Why hasn't something been done about Gerhard Schroeder's treason (selling out his country to the Russians in order to get a cushy job at Gazprom?)

Anonymous said...
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