The lakeChime Team, Technology

Evolutionary-SSTAR


LC-E-SSTAR is the latest design of SSTAR transportable reactor technology for safe, cost efficient and fast power in the United States and abroad.  The natural circulation, fast converter reactor plant fills an immediate need for heat and power in isolated and developing regions, without the long and expensive construction process required to develop large reactors. The reactor is factory-manufactured and delivered to the site as a sealed package via barge or railcar.  LC-E-SSTAR features proliferation-resistant technology particularly suited for use in non-fuel cycle states and developing nations. The reactor will incorporate selected design improvements over the SSTAR design to facilitate licensing and early deployment.

The technology is elegant and scalable: at about 45 feet (15 meters) tall and 12 feet (3 meters) wide, the 100 MW(e) unit is expected to weigh about 500 tons. A 10-megawatt MW version is likely to weigh substantially less, possibly as little as 200 tons.

Self-Sufficient, Fast
Self-sufficiency is built into the LC-E-SSTAR design, so the plant will not have to rely on off-site or grid power.  On-site resources provide for instrumentation and control to allow for monitoring.  It is a fast reactor, so the fast-moving neutrons at its core can produce the fissile material it needs to operate at the same time it generates energy. The fuel inventory of the reactor includes about as much fissile material at end of life as at the beginning, allowing for sustainability and enabling long core life without refueling, an essential proliferation-resistant advantage over other reactors.  LC-E-SSTAR is designed for up to 30 years of operation with 15 years of assured service, and does not need refueling during this operational life.  The spent reactor can be removed, replaced, and shipped to a central facility for recycling, and the residual fuel materials can be utilized in fueling new LC-E-SSTAR systems.

Safe
In addition to LC-E-SSTAR’s convenience and ease of construction, the plant is primarily designed to meet stringent safety and non-proliferation requirements. Our design provides many levels of protection against the release of radioactive materials, with the inherent safety features of the lead coolant, nitride or oxide fuel, fast neutron spectrum core, pool vessel configuration, natural circulation cooling, and containment that meet or exceed the requirements for each level of protection. The reactor system is robust against storms, earthquakes, lightning, or other natural risks.

The system is further protected against terrorist threats by virtue of its low-pressure design, the sealed nature of the reactor vessel, and the small security footprint.  The design for autonomous control reduces the need for control rod motion.  There is no need for storage of fresh or spent fuel. Instead, the reactor vessel remains sealed by design while on site and can only be opened at the factory or by factory-supplied technicians.

Conventional reactors pose the risk of proliferation because they have to be periodically recharged with fuel, requiring the management of both fresh and spent fuel. Both steps create the possibility of diverting fissile material to weapons programs. With LC-E-SSTAR, such risk is minimized because fresh and spent fuels are not managed and fissile material cannot be removed from the reactor.  The reactor is designed to be tamper proof and incorporates security features and alarms to prevent access except by factory representatives in the case of cassette core replacement, or at the factory after return of the sealed core.  The security profile is further enhanced by placing the reactor plant underground.

LC-E-SSTAR provides a high degree of passive safety, further supporting deployment in isolated areas of the United States as well as developing nations.  Since FY 2006, the U.S. national laboratories made collaborative improvements to the pre-conceptual design of both the reactor and energy conversion systems. Under the LC-E-SSTAR program, additional improvements are under consideration that will further enhance the potential for early deployability of this system.

Cost Efficient
Site preparation and other environmental impacts can be reduced by LC-E-SSTAR’s modular construction and small footprint. The LC-E-SSTAR design potentially offers significant cost savings over conventional plants, and could be operated to generate cash and energy by diverting waste heat into industrial processes. It is ideal for almost any application, from powering remote military bases, industrial complexes, or public service facilities to supporting hydrogen production to meeting the energy needs of a developing nation.