Thursday, November 29, 2012

Global Trends in Nuclear Power

Russia's Rosatom recently signed a deal with 13 collaborating Czech companies to build an advanced lead-cooled fast reactor SMR called the SVBR-100.
The main advantage of fast-neutron reactor technology over traditional nuclear power plants is that it can utilise this waste product – irradiated or highly-enriched nuclear fuel – in the process of generating energy. Fast reactors also produce far less new nuclear waste than conventional reactors, while some reactors, called fast-breeder reactors, can be used to produce an excess of plutonium, which can then be used in nuclear weapons or recycled to fuel the plant.

According to Leonid Bolshov, professor at the Institute for the Safe Development of Nuclear Energy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the development of fast nuclear reactors is essential to close the nuclear fuel cycle.“Fast reactors will help us solve one of the most pressing problems connected with atomic energy, and that is what to do with the atomic waste from nuclear power stations that are currently operational.”

In Britain, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is considering plans to build two fast reactors at Sellafield in Cumbria to deal with the 120-ton plutonium waste problem there – the world’s largest stock of civilian plutonium. A feasibility study has already been submitted for building the plants, which, if given the go-ahead, could eradicate the British plutonium stockpile by around 2030. This would also have the benefit of generating electricity in the process. _Behind the Headlines
More at the link above.

ATMEA, a Gen III + reactor collaboration by Areva and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, is on the way to being installed in Jordan, Argentina, probably in Brazil, and elsewhere:
The ATMEA1 reactor is an evolutionary Generation III+ medium-sized pressurized water reactor (PWR) embedding proven technologies and providing top level safety as well as high economical and operational performance. As such, it is the best response to Brazil’s energy needs and constraints. Perfectly adaptable to Brazil’s grid requirements, the ATMEA1 reactor can provide Brazilian utilities with advanced operational flexibility.

The ATMEA1 reactor has already been pre-selected in Jordan and pre-qualified in Argentina for those countries’ nuclear new-builds programs. ATMEA is also looking at other opportunities in Asia, where utilities have expressed interest in the ATMEA1 reactor. _ATMEA Reactor
Here is an update from Brian Wang on China's high temperature gas cooled reactor (HTGR) developments. China is commencing its nuclear buildup, after a safety delay caused by concerns over the Fukushima earthquake & tsunami caused accident at a nuclear power plant.

The Next Generation Nuclear Power Plant Industry Alliance accepted two new members recently -- the Savana River Site Community Reuse Organization, and the Advanced Research Center. The goal of the alliance is the production of high and very high temperature reactors for joint production of electricity and high quality industrial process heat.
Rick McLeod, Executive Director of the SRSCRO said “These high temperature reactors present a very real and very exciting possibility for our region of the country. We have several local industrial heat users in South Carolina and Georgia that would greatly benefit from the price stability and environmental benefits of heat produced by this type of small modular reactor. Our community is a pro-nuclear community and we have an existing skilled nuclear work force associated with the Savannah River Site and surrounding nuclear industry. We also have established training programs to train future workers for jobs in the nuclear industry. Plus, there are a number of well-characterized and appropriate sites for these next generation modular reactors.”

Fred Humes, Director of the Advanced Research Center added “The market for HTGRs is substantial. The NGNP Industry Alliance and the Idaho National Laboratory have conservatively estimated that in North America alone, there is a market for over 700 of these advanced high temperature SMRs. The Aiken area can be in on the ground floor in terms of fuel manufacturing, components, materials, etc. The need to build out this capability definitely plays to our strengths. In addition, there are several potential uses of the technology that are particularly intriguing to me, including high temperature steam for our industries along with an added advantage of a supply of electrical power. There’s also the very exciting potential for using HTGR heat and electric power for the production of large quantities of hydrogen without fossil fuel use – this could be revolutionary for petrochemical and carbon conversion industries around the world.”

On the subject of timing, Moore stated that “The impression some people may have that HTGRs are decades away is simply false. There is a good historic legacy, including in the U.S., for this technology. Two test reactors are currently operational globally and a commercial sized unit is being built in China. Although a technology development effort is needed in parallel with a modern, U.S.-based licensing process, the technology development risk is very low. With a focused, aggressive effort, the first-of-a-kind modern HTGR module could be up and operating in the U.S. by about 2026 as part of a multi-module deployment.” _NextGen Nuclear Power Plant Alliance
Finally, Microsoft's former Chief Technology Officer Nathan Mhyrvold, continues to push the development of Terrapower's Traveling Wave Reactor, which is a fast reactor design. Bill Gates and other wealthy backers have been supportive of Terrapower, in the hopes that the design will lead to safer nuclear power plants which consume nuclear waste along with depleted uranium and more conventional nuclear fuels.

Nuclear power offers the potential for virtually unlimited clean safe and affordable electrical power and industrial heat -- if it is done properly.

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