Since the onset of gas-cooled reactor work, almost half a century ago, the potential for direct coupling of a nuclear heat source with a gas turbine power conversion system was recognized, however, the technologies for the realization of this were not available, and the plants operated to date have used Rankine steam turbine power conversion systems. In the early 1990s, technology transfer from the gas turbine and aerospace industries, now make possible the introduction of the gas turbine modular helium reactor (GT-MHR) for utility power generation within the next decade. In this paper the enabling technologies for the helium gas turbine power conversion system are discussed, and these include the turbomachinery, magnetic bearings, compact heat exchangers, and helium system operating experience. Utilizing proven technology, the first GT-MHR plant would operate with an efficiency of 47%, and by exploiting its full potential this could perhaps reach as high as 60% early in the next century.

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