It's a worldwide first: the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK•CEN) has succeeded in operating a lead-cooled nuclear reactor controlled by a particle accelerator built by CNRS. The objective is to control the operation of nuclear reactors more easily and produce less polluting nuclear waste in the long term. This operational model, known as GUINEVERE, was also built in collaboration with CEA, the European Commission and around ten European laboratories.
GUINEVERE is a reactor entirely composed of nuclear fuel, lead and a particle accelerator that controls the reactor. It is a demonstration model of an ADS (Accelerator Driven System). ADS are easy to control and are thus safer since they employ what is known as a sub-critical core. To operate, the reactor of an ADS needs an external source of neutrons supplied by a particle accelerator. Consequently, the reactor can be immediately stopped by turning off the accelerator.
© CNRS Insertion of the vertical line of the Genepi-3C accelerator into the core of the CNRS GUINEVERE reactor.
Furthermore, unlike conventional reactors, systems such as GUINEVERE generate rapid neutrons that allow the fission of certain high level long-lived waste into products of lower radiotoxicity.
GUINEVERE is a research facility of limited power, but this demonstration model is of vital importance for the development of procedures for regulating and controlling the operation of future sub-critical reactors such as MYRRHA, scheduled to be operational in 2023. MYRRHA will also contribute to the development of novel solutions, not just in the nuclear sector but also in medicine, industry and renewable energy.
GUINEVERE's accelerator was built by CNRS, while CEA contributed to the design of the core and supplied the fuel for the reactor.