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 EBR-II reactor was the prototype for the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR), a reactor fueled by metal alloy and cooled by liquid sodium.
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 pyro-processing — a new development — and waste is put in its final form for disposal. All this is done on one self-sufficient site.
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. The program was cancelled in 1994 for non-technical reasons. 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.