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Reactors Designed by Argonne National Laboratory

Integral Fast Reactor

The Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) is a revolutionary reactor design concept developed at Argonne National Laboratory. The IFR is a reactor fueled by metal alloy and cooled by liquid sodium. On April 3, 1986, two tests demonstrated the inherent safety of the IFR concept. These tests simulated accidents involving loss of coolant flow. Even with its normal shutdown devices disabled, the reactor shut itself down safely without overheating anywhere in the system.
The information about the IFR included in this page is reprinted with permission from the book “Plentiful Energy: The Story of the Integral Fast Reactor” by Charles E. Till and Yoon Chang, CreateSpace, ISBN 1-4663-8460-3 (2011).

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Integral Fast Reactor

The EBR-II reactor was the prototype for the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR)

The EBR-II reactor was the prototype for the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR), a reactor fueled by metal alloy and cooled by liquid sodium. Click on photo to view a larger image.
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The Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) is a fast reactor system developed at Argonne National Laboratory in the decade 1984 to 1994. The IFR project developed the technology for a complete system; the reactor, the entire fuel cycle, and the waste management technologies were all included in the development program. The reactor concept had important features and characteristics that were completely new and fuel cycle and waste management technologies that were entirely new developments. The reactor is a “fast” reactor – that is, the chain reaction is maintained by “fast” neutrons with high energy – which produces its own fuel. The IFR reactor and associated fuel cycle is a closed system. Electrical power is generated, new fissile fuel is produced to replace the fuel burned, its used fuel is processed for recycling by pyroprocessing – a new development – and waste is put in its final form for disposal. All this is done on one self-sufficient site.

CDiagram showing the concept behind the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) fuel recycling process

Diagram showing the concept behind the IFR fuel recycling process. Click on image to view a larger image.

The IFR’s history is embedded in the history of nuclear power in the United States – in its ups and downs, and in the plusses and minuses of nuclear technology itself. Its story starts sixty years ago with the first reactor that ever produced useful electrical power. IFR development began in 1984 with the “advanced reactor development program” that was carried out for a decade at Argonne. Although the program was nearly complete in 1994, US President Bill Clinton announced in his State of the Union address that year that, ‘We are eliminating programs that are no longer needed, such as nuclear power research and development’, and the IFR, as the nation’s principal such program, was cancelled. But it continues at a low level in studies and programs of the US Department of Energy and in programs around the world today, due to its ability to provide a truly inexhaustible energy technology for entire nations.

Questions about the Integral Fast Reactor

Learn more about the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR)

More information on the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) can be found in the compiled list of links and multimedia features below. If you still have unanswered questions about the IFR, send them to . We’ll be sure to pose them to our researchers, and we’ll respond to you personally.

For more information on the IFR:

What is the IFR?, by George S. Stanford, Ph.D. (May 2013) [210KB]

  • Science Council for Global Initiatives — An international nonprofit organization dedicated to informing the public and policymakers about technologies and strategies that can lead to an energy-rich world.

Papers on the IFR available at the DOE Energy Citations Database:

For more information on pyroprocessing:

The IFR in the Popular Media:

“Pandora’s Promise” the Movie

Watch the official trailer of the documentary by Robert Stone that premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2013 and opened in U.S. movie theaters June 2013 (Screenings list — from “Pandora’s Promise” website).



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Last Modified: Thu, November 14, 2013 7:25 PM

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