One of the current engineering challenges is to design next generation (Generation IV) Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) with significantly higher thermal efficiencies (43–55%) compared to those of current NPPs to match or at least to be close to the thermal efficiencies reached at fossil-fired power plants (55–62%). The Sodium-cooled Fast Reactor (SFR) is one of the six concepts considered under the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) initiative.

The BN-600 reactor is a sodium-cooled fast-breeder reactor built at the Beloyarsk NPP in Russia. This concept is the only one from the Generation IV nuclear-power reactors, which is actually in operation (since 1980’s). At the secondary side, it uses a subcritical-pressure Rankine-steam cycle with heat regeneration. The reactor generates electrical power in the amount of 600 MWel. The reactor core dimensions are 0.75 m (height) by 2.06 m (diameter). The UO2 fuel enriched to 17–26% is utilized in the core.

There are 2 loops (circuits) for sodium flow. For safety reasons, sodium is used both in the primary and the intermediate circuits. Therefore, a sodium-to-sodium heat exchanger is used to transfer heat from the primary loop to the intermediate one. In this work major parameters of the reactor are listed. The actual scheme of the power-conversion heat-transport system is presented; and the results of the calculation of thermal efficiency of this scheme are analyzed. Details of the heat-transport system, including parameters of the sodium-to-sodium heat exchanger and main coolant pump, are presented.

In this paper two possibilities for the SFR in terms of the power-conversion cycle are investigated: 1. a subcritical-pressure Rankine-steam cycle through a heat exchanger (current approach in Russian and Japanese power reactors); 2. a supercritical-pressure CO2 Brayton gas-turbine cycle through a heat exchanger (US approach).

With the advent of modern super-alloys, the Rankine-steam cycle has progressed into the supercritical region of the coolant and is generating thermal efficiencies into the mid 50% range. Therefore, the thermal efficiency of a supercritical Rankine-steam cycle is also briefly discussed in this paper.

According to GIF, the Brayton gas-turbine cycle is under consideration for future nuclear power reactors. The supercritical-CO2 cycle is a new approach in the Brayton gas-turbine cycle. Therefore, dependence of the thermal efficiency of this SC CO2 cycle on inlet parameters of the gas turbine is also investigated.

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