The High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor

An Overview of Safety Issues

by Kenneth A. Solomon, Steven L. Salem

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The high temperature gas cooled reactor (HTGR) concept is a potential supplement to the light water reactor (LWR), and thus it is useful to examine its potential inherent safety and to assess the implications of the accident at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (a light water reactor) on HTGR design. A review of the literature indicates that in terms of environmental impact, the HTGR offers about 25 percent less thermal pollution and roughly the same radiological effluents. An inherent safety feature of the HTGR is that its constituents combine to provide more time to respond to core heat-up problems. Recommendations for safety research include comparing HTGR and LWR safety issues on a more commensurable scale; increased emphasis on accidents smaller than those in the design basis and on operator errors and common-cause failures; study of alternative and enhanced safety systems; safety studies of alternative HTGR designs; and study of accident consequences, including degraded cores, radiation releases, and impact on public health.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

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