In high and intermediate pressure (HIP) steam turbines with shrouded blades, it is well known that shroud leakage losses contribute significantly to overall losses. Shroud leakage flow with a large tangential velocity creates a significant aerodynamic loss due to mixing with the mainstream flow. In order to reduce this mixing loss, two distinct ideas for rotor shroud exit cavity geometries were investigated using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analyses and experimental tests. One idea was an axial fin placed from the shroud downstream casing to reduce the axial cavity gap, and the other was a swirl breaker placed in the rotor shroud exit cavity to reduce the tangential velocity of the leakage flow. In addition to the conventional cavity geometry, three types of shroud exit cavity geometries were designed, manufactured and tested using a 1.5-stage air model turbine with medium aspect ratio blading. Test results showed that the axial fin and the swirl breaker raised turbine stage efficiency by 0.2% and 0.7%, respectively. The proposed swirl breaker was judged to be an effective way to achieve highly efficient steam turbines because it not only reduces the mixing losses but also improves the incidence angle distribution onto the downstream blade row. This study is presented in two papers. The basic design concept and typical performance of the proposed swirl breaker are presented in the first paper Part I, Design Concept and Typical Performance of a Swirl Breaker, and the efficiency improvement effect of the swirl breaker when applied to a real steam turbine is discussed in Part II – Effect of Axial Distance between a Swirl Breaker and Rotor Shroud on Efficiency Improvement.