This paper examines the effects of using noble gases and binary mixtures as reactor coolants and direct closed Brayton cycle (CBC) working fluids on the performance of terrestrial nuclear power plants and the size of the turbo-machines. While pure helium has the best transport properties and lowest pumping power requirement of all noble gases and binary mixtures, its low molecular weight increases the number of stages of the turbo-machines. The heat transfer coefficient for a He-Xe binary mixture having a molecular weight of 15 g/mole is 7% higher than that of helium, and the number of stages in the turbo-machines is 24-30% of those for He working fluid. However, for the same piping and heat exchange components design, the loop pressure losses with He-Xe are ∼3 times those with He. Consequently, for the same reactor exit temperature and pressure losses in piping and heat exchange components, the higher pressure losses in the nuclear reactor decrease the net peak efficiency of the plant with He-Xe working fluid (15 g/mole) by a little more than ∼2% points, at higher cycle compression ratio than with He working fluid. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.