Rapidly increasing energy and electricity demands, global concerns over the climate changes and strong dependence on foreign fossil fuels supplies are powerfully influencing greater use of nuclear power. In order to establish the viability of next-generation reactor concepts to meet tomorrow’s needs for clean and reliable energy production the fundamental research and development issues need to be addressed for the Generation-IV nuclear-energy systems. Generation-IV reactor concepts are being developed to use more advanced materials, coolants and higher burn-ups fuels, while keeping a nuclear reactor safe and reliable. One of the six Generation-IV concepts which will utilize thermal neutron spectrum is a Very High Temperature Reactor (VHTR).
This reactor concept uses a graphite-moderated core with a once-through uranium fuel cycle, using high temperature helium as the coolant. Because helium is naturally inert and single-phase, the helium-cooled reactor can operate at much higher temperatures, leading to higher efficiency. Current VHTR concepts will use fuels such as uranium dioxide, uranium carbide, or uranium oxycarbide. Since some of these fuels are new in nuclear industry and due to their unknown properties and behaviour within VHTR conditions it is very important to address these issues by investigate their characteristics within conditions close to those in VHTRs. This research can be performed in a research reactor with in-pile helium loop designed and constructed in Research Centre Rez, Ltd.
The purpose of the High Temperature Helium Loop (HTHL) is to simulate technical and chemical conditions of VHTR’s coolant. The loop is intended to serve an as experimental device for fatigue and creep tests of construction metallic materials for gas-cooled reactors and it should be also employed for research in field of gaseous coolant chemistry. The loop will serve also for tests of nuclear graphite, dosing and Helium purification systems. Because the VHTR is a new reactor concept, major technical uncertainties remain relative to helium-cooled advanced reactor systems. This paper summarizes the concept of the HTHL in the Research Centre Rez Ltd., its design, utilization and future plans for experimental setup.