What is Nuclear Energy and how does it work

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Published Date:07-07-2017
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i NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ROADMAP EXECUTIVE SUMMARY To achieve energy security and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction objectives, the United States must develop and deploy clean, affordable, domestic energy sources as quickly as possible. Nuclear power will continue to be a key component of a portfolio of technologies that meets our energy goals. This document provides a roadmap for the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) research, development, and demonstration activities that will ensure nuclear energy remains viable energy option for the United States. Today, the key challenges to the increased use of nuclear energy, both domestically and internationally, include: • The capital cost of new large plants is high and can challenge the ability of electric utilities to deploy new nuclear power plants. • The exemplary safety performance of the U.S. nuclear industry over the past thirty years must be maintained by an expanding reactor fleet. • There is currently no integrated and permanent solution to high-level nuclear waste management. • International expansion of the use of nuclear energy raises concerns about the proliferation of nuclear weapons stemming from potential access to special nuclear materials and technologies. In some cases, there is a necessary and appropriate federal role in overcoming these challenges, consistent with the primary mission of NE to advance nuclear power as a resource capable of making major contributions to meeting the nation’s energy supply, environmental, and energy security needs. This is accomplished by resolving technical, cost, safety, security and proliferation resistance barriers, through research, development, and demonstration, as appropriate. NE’s research and development (R&D) activities will help address challenges and thereby enable the deployment of new reactor technologies that will support the current fleet of reactors and facilitate the construction of new ones. Research and Development Objectives NE organizes its R&D activities along four main R&D objectives that address challenges to expanding the use of nuclear power: (1) develop technologies and other solutions that can improve the reliability, sustain the safety, and extend the life of current reactors; (2) develop improvements in the affordability of new reactors to enable nuclear energy to help meet the Administration's energy security and climate change goals; (3) develop sustainable nuclear fuel cycles; and (4) understanding and minimization of risks of nuclear proliferation and terrorism. APRIL 2010 v NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ROADMAP R&D OBJECTIVE 1: Develop technologies and other solutions that can improve the reliability, sustain the safety, and extend the life of current reactors The existing U.S. nuclear fleet has a remarkable safety and performance record, and today these reactors account for 70 percent of the low greenhouse gas (GHG)-emitting domestic electricity production. Extending the operating lifetimes of current plants beyond sixty years and, where possible, making further improvements in their productivity will generate near-term benefits. Industry has a significant financial incentive to extend the life of existing plants, and as such, activities will be cost shared. Federal R&D investments are appropriate to answer fundamental scientific questions and, where private investment is insufficient, to help make progress on broadly applicable technology issues that can generate public benefits. The DOE role in this R&D objective is to work in conjunction with industry and where appropriate the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to support and conduct the long-term research needed to inform major component refurbishment and replacement strategies, performance enhancements, plant license extensions, and age-related regulatory oversight decisions. DOE will focus on aging phenomena and issues that require long-term research and are generic to reactor type. R&D OBJECTIVE 2: Develop improvements in the affordability of new reactors to enable nuclear energy to help meet the Administration's energy security and climate change goals If nuclear energy is to be a strong component of the nation’s future energy portfolio, barriers to the deployment of new nuclear plants must be overcome. Impediments to new plant deployment, even for those designs based on familiar light-water reactor (LWR) technology, include the substantial capital cost of new plants and the uncertainties in the time required to license and construct those plants. Although subject to their own barriers for deployment, more advanced plant designs, such as small modular reactors (SMRs) and high-temperature reactors (HTRs), have characteristics that could make them more desirable than today’s technology. SMRs, for example, have the potential to achieve lower proliferation risks and more simplified construction than other designs. The development of next-generation reactors could present lower capital costs and improved efficiencies. These reactors may be based upon new designs that take advantage of the advances in high performance computing while leveraging capabilities afforded by improved structural materials. Industry plays a substantial role in overcoming the barriers in this area. DOE provides support through R&D ranging from fundamental nuclear phenomena to the development of advanced fuels that could improve the economic and safety performance of these advanced reactors. Nuclear power can reduce GHG emissions from electricity production and possibly in co-generation by displacing fossil fuels in the generation of process heat for applications including refining and the production of fertilizers and other chemical products. vi APRIL 2010 NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ROADMAP R&D OBJECTIVE 3: Develop Sustainable Nuclear Fuel Cycles Sustainable fuel cycle options are those that improve uranium resource utilization, maximize energy generation, minimize waste generation, improve safety, and limit proliferation risk. The key challenge is to develop a suite of options that will enable future decision makers to make informed choices about how best to manage the used fuel from reactors. The Administration has established the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future to inform this waste- management decision-making process. DOE will conduct R&D in this area to investigate technical challenges involved with three potential strategies for used fuel management: • Once-Through – Develop fuels for use in reactors that would increase the efficient use of uranium resources and reduce the amount of used fuel requiring direct disposal for each megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity produced. Additionally, evaluate the inclusion of non-uranium materials (e.g., thorium) as reactor fuel options that may reduce the long-lived radiotoxic elements in the used fuel that would go into a repository. • Modified Open Cycle – Investigate fuel forms and reactors that would increase fuel resource utilization and reduce the quantity of long-lived radiotoxic elements in the used fuel to be disposed (per MWh), with limited separations steps using technologies that substantially lower proliferation risk. • Full Recycling – Develop techniques that will enable the long-lived actinide elements to be repeatedly recycled rather than disposed. The ultimate goal is to develop a cost-effective and low proliferation risk approach that would dramatically decrease the long-term danger posed by the waste, reducing uncertainties associated with its disposal. DOE will work to develop the best approaches within each of these tracks to inform waste management strategies and decision making. R&D OBJECTIVE 4: Understand and minimize the risks of nuclear proliferation and terrorism It is important to assure that the benefits of nuclear power can be obtained in a manner that limits nuclear proliferation and security risks. These risks include the related but distinctly separate possibilities that nations may attempt to use nuclear technologies in pursuit of a nuclear weapon and that terrorists might seek to steal material that could be used in a nuclear explosive device. Addressing these concerns requires an integrated approach that incorporates the simultaneous development of nuclear technologies, including safeguards and security technologies and systems, and the maintenance and strengthening of non-proliferation frameworks and protocols. Technological advances can only provide part of an effective response to proliferation risks, as institutional measures such as export controls and safeguards are also essential to addressing proliferation concerns. These activities must be informed by robust assessments developed for understanding, limiting, and managing the risks of nation-state proliferation and physical security for nuclear technologies. NE will focus on assessments required to inform domestic fuel APRIL 2010 vii NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ROADMAP cycle technology and system option development. These analyses would complement those assessments performed by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to evaluate nation state proliferation and the international nonproliferation regime. NE will work with other organizations including the NNSA, the Department of State, the NRC, and others in further defining, implementing and executing this integrated approach. R&D Areas The Department expects to undertake R&D in a variety of areas to support its role in the objectives outlined above. Examples include: Figure 1. Major Elements of a Science-Based Approach • Structural materials • Nuclear fuels • Reactor systems • Instrumentation and controls • Power conversion systems • Process heat transport systems • Dry heat rejection • Separations processes • Waste forms • Risk assessment methods • Computational modeling and simulation R&D Approach A goal-driven, science-based approach is essential to achieving the stated objectives while exploring new technologies and seeking transformational advances. This science-based approach, depicted in Figure 1, combines theory, experimentation, and high-performance modeling and simulation to develop the fundamental understanding that will lead to new technologies. Advanced modeling and simulation tools will be used in conjunction with smaller-scale, phenomenon-specific experiments informed by theory to reduce the need for large, expensive integrated experiments. Insights gained by advanced modeling and simulation can lead to new theoretical understanding and, in turn, can improve models and experimental design. This R&D must be informed by the basic research capabilities in the DOE Office of Science (SC). NE maintains access to a broad range of facilities to support its research activities. Hot cells and test reactors are at the top of the hierarchy, followed by smaller-scale radiological facilities, specialty engineering facilities, and small non-radiological laboratories. NE employs a multi- pronged approach to having these capabilities available when needed. The core capabilities rely on DOE-owned irradiation, examination, chemical processing and waste form development facilities. These are supplemented by university capabilities ranging from research reactors to materials science laboratories. In the course of conducting this science-based R&D, viii APRIL 2010 NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ROADMAP infrastructure needs will be evaluated and considered through the established planning and budget development processes. There is potential to leverage and amplify effective U.S. R&D through collaboration with other nations via multilateral and bilateral agreements, including the Generation IV International Forum. DOE is also a participant in Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development/Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD/NEA) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) initiatives that bear directly on the development and deployment of new reactor systems. In addition to these R&D activities, international interaction supported by NE and other government agencies will be essential in establishment of international norms and control regimes to address and mitigate proliferation concerns. APRIL 2010 ix NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ROADMAP 1. INTRODUCTION Access to affordable, abundant energy – chiefly from fossil fuel sources – has been a key enabler st of economic growth since the Industrial Revolution. However, as the first decade of the 21 century draws to a close, the United States finds itself confronted with economic, environmental, and national security challenges related in part to the manner in which our society produces, distributes, and uses energy. Continued access to plentiful, secure, and environmentally benign energy is fundamental to overcoming these challenges. Nuclear power is a proven Nuclear energy is an important element of the diverse clean, affordable, domestic energy portfolio required to accomplish our national energy source that is part of objectives. NE conducts research and development, the current U.S. energy and demonstrations, as appropriate, that will help enable the benefits of clean, safe, secure and affordable portfolio. nuclear energy to continue and expand. This document identifies opportunities and challenges associated with continued and increased use of fission energy to enhance our nation’s prosperity, security, and environmental quality; outlines the NE role and mission in enabling the benefits of nuclear energy for our nation; and presents a strategy and roadmap to guide the NE scientific and technical agenda. The report presents a high-level vision and framework for R&D activities needed to keep the nuclear energy option viable in the near term and to expand its use in the decades ahead. Section 2 describes the current energy production and utilization landscape in the United States. Section 3 articulates NE’s fundamental mission and role in enabling nuclear energy solutions and presents the four R&D objectives for nuclear energy development that are the focus of NE activities. The details of the roadmap are presented in Section 4. The R&D approach presented in Section 5 embodies a goal-oriented, science-based R&D portfolio that includes both evolutionary and transformational, high-risk–high-payoff R&D, including those research areas that encompass multiple objectives. Finally, Section 6 provides a summary of the objects presented in this report. This report is not an implementation plan, but rather provides a basis that will guide NE’s internal programmatic and strategic planning for research going forward. APRIL 2010 1 NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ROADMAP The report focuses on R&D activities sponsored by NE. To achieve its energy The U.S. nuclear industry plays a central role in overcoming barriers and is ultimately responsible for security and GHG reduction the commercial deployment of the resulting objectives, the U.S. must technologies. NE intends to proceed in a manner that develop and deploy clean, supports a strong and viable nuclear industry in the affordable, domestic energy United States and preserves the ability of that industry sources as quickly as to participate in nuclear projects here and abroad. possible. Finally, it should be noted that in some limited cases, NE’s mission extends beyond terrestrial deployment of nuclear energy into other arenas, such as space applications of both fission and radioisotope power systems. Some technology development needs identified in this document also benefit space applications, but these mission arenas are not addressed in this roadmap. Educational programs, while vital, are interwoven through the technical programs and are not discussed as separate entities. 2 APRIL 2010 NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ROADMAP 2. BACKGROUND All governments of the world share a common challenge to ensure their people have access to affordable, abundant, and environmentally friendly energy. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has reiterated the Administration’s position that nuclear is an important part of the energy mix. He has recognized the importance of nuclear energy in meeting this challenge and supports R&D that can help increase the benefits of nuclear energy. A key objective that will shape the energy landscape of the United States is the transition to clean energy sources with reductions in GHG emissions (with a quantitative goal of 83% reduction below 2005 emissions levels by 2050, shown in Figure 2). 1 Figure 2. U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2.1 The Energy Landscape 2 The Human Development Index is a commonly used measure of quality of life. Figure 3 illustrates that a nation’s standard of living depends in part on energy consumption. Access to adequate energy is now and will continue to be required to achieve a high quality of life. Economic development, combined with efforts to limit carbon emissions, will likely lead to a 1 2007 GHG emissions reported in EPA, Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990 – 2007 EPA 430-R-09-004, April 15, 2009. Administration emission goals taken from the “Testimony of Peter R. Orszag, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Before the Committee on the Budget, U.S. House of Representatives” on March 3, 2009. 2 The index was developed by the United Nations to enable cross-national comparisons of development and is updated in an annual report. The derivation of the index was introduced in United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 1990, Oxford University Press, 1990. APRIL 2010 3 NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ROADMAP significant expansion of nuclear power. The U.S., in concert with the international community, must develop the technologies and systems to accomplish such expansion while limiting proliferation risks. Figure 3. 2005 Human Development Index vs. Energy Consumption (Per Capita Kilograms Oil Equivalent) As we move forward, efficiency and conservation will become ever-increasing components of energy policy. However, conservation and energy efficiency alone will not be sufficient to maintain a desirable quality of life. The United States currently consumes roughly 100 quadrillion British Thermal Units (BTU), or 3 100 quads, of primary energy. This represents 25% of world’s energy consumption in a country that produces 30% of the global gross domestic product (GDP). Figure 4 shows energy consumption in the United States as a function of sectors and energy sources. At present, 40% of the total energy consumed is in the form of electricity, of which about 20 percent is generated by nuclear power. With 6 billion metric tons (MT) of emitted carbon dioxide (CO ) as a result of 2 fossil fuel usage (see Figure 5), the United States contributes 25 percent of global GHGs emitted. 3 The data in Figures 5 and 6 are reported by the U.S. DOE Energy Information Agency “An Updated Annual Energy Outlook 2009 Reference Case,” 2009. 4 APRIL 2010 NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ROADMAP Figure 4. U.S. Primary Energy Use in 2008 APRIL 2010 5 NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ROADMAP Figure 5. U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions in 2007 6 APRIL 2010 NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ROADMAP The Administration’s clean energy and climate change objectives are ambitious and achievable. Successful achievement of these objectives will require solutions to technical challenges associated with various energy sectors, including: • Electricity Sector GHG Production – As seen in Figures 4 and 5, the U.S. electricity production sector annually consumes 40 quadrillion BTU of primary energy, producing 4,150 million MWh of electricity, and emitting 2,400 million MT of CO . The average 2 carbon intensity of the U.S. electric-generating sector is 0.58 MT–CO /MWh of electricity 2 produced. While far from the world’s highest carbon intensity (China produces 0.87 MT- CO /MWh of electricity), U.S. electric-generating-sector carbon intensity is far higher than 2 some industrialized countries. For instance, France emits only 0.09 MT–CO /MWh of 2 electricity produced. There is clearly both the need for, and the real potential for, significant improvement in U.S. electric-generating-sector carbon intensity and GHG emissions. • Transportation Sector Energy Use and GHG Emissions – The transportation sector is currently responsible for 33% of GHG emissions (Figure The driver for the new 5). In addition to more energy-efficient internal energy policy is to continue combustion engines, electrification of the to generate energy, mostly transportation sector using new low-carbon from domestic sources, at electricity-generation technologies will assist in an affordable price. The reducing these emissions. Successful policy must meet increasing electrification of the transportation sector is also dependent on improvements in battery technology demand, with considerably to enable high-density energy storage to meet reduced GHG emissions, vehicle service range requirements. and without stifling GDP • Industrial Sector Energy Use and GHG Emissions growth. – Industrial use of energy is responsible for 16 percent of the country’s GHG emissions (Figure 5). About half of these emissions come from chemical facilities and oil refineries. The development of GHG-free technologies that can generate and deliver significant thermal and chemical energy to industry is needed. 2.2 The Value and Need for an “Energy Portfolio” Approach Given the issues noted in Section 2.1, an effective energy policy will almost certainly rely on the development and use of a portfolio of domestic clean energy sources. This is true not only because of resource limits at various points in the energy supply chain but also because all APRIL 2010 7 NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ROADMAP 4 energy sources face economic, technical, and societal risks to their successful deployment. 5 R. Socolow and S. Pacala, in “A Plan To Keep Carbon In Check,” have demonstrated the potential for energy portfolio approaches to enhance U.S. energy security and reduce the threat of global warming. The following section discusses the role of nuclear energy as an element of the U.S. energy portfolio. 2.3 Nuclear Energy as an Element of the Future U.S. Energy Portfolio In 2007, the 104 light-water Figure 6. U.S. Nuclear Energy History, 1980 – 2008 reactors (LWRs) currently operating in the United States generated 806 billion kilowatt-hours (kW-hrs), equivalent to 92 gigawatt- years (GWe-yrs). As shown in Figure 6, even though the generating capacity of the nuclear fleet has been essentially flat for almost twenty years, the production of nuclear electricity (EIA, Annual Energy Review 2008) continued to grow largely as a result of increased capacity factors. The fleet’s average capacity factor improved from 56.3% 6 in 1980 to 91.9% in 2008. This improvement was driven by reactor operators and the efforts of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), spurred by NE-sponsored R&D into high-burnup fuels that allowed utilities to shift from 12-month operating cycles to 18- or 24-month operating cycles that reduced downtime. Additionally, some growth can be attributed to power uprates that increased capacity at existing plants. While in operation, nuclear power plants do not emit GHGs. Every MWh of electricity produced with nuclear energy avoids the emission of approximately 1.0 MT of CO if the same amount of 2 energy had been generated with conventional coal-fired technologies or approximately 0.6 MT of CO if the energy had been produced with natural gas. Since the per capita electricity 2 consumption in the United States is approximately 14 MWh of electricity per year per person, nuclear energy offers the prospect of avoiding what could otherwise be an annual personal carbon footprint from electricity production of up to 14 MT of CO . In addition, nuclear power 2 4 R. Socolow and S. Pacala, "Stabilization Wedges: Solving the Climate Problem for the Next 50 Years with Current Technologies." Science, August 13, 2004: 968-972. 5 Scientific American, September 2006 6 EIA, Annual Energy Review 2008, Table 9.2. 8 APRIL 2010 NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ROADMAP is dependable. It is available day or night, when the wind is blowing and when it is not. After more than three decades of outstanding safety performance, the public acceptance of nuclear 7 energy has turned in favor of its deployment. However, continued and increased use of nuclear energy faces several key challenges: • Capital Cost – The current fleet of nuclear power plants produces electricity at a very low cost (approximately 2–3 cents/kilowatt-hour) because these plants have already repaid the initial construction investments. However, the capital cost of a large new plant is high and can challenge the ability of electric utilities to deploy new nuclear reactors. Thus, it is important to reduce the capital cost by innovative designs. The introduction of smaller reactors might reduce capital costs by taking advantage of series fabrication in centralized plants and may reduce financial risk by requiring a smaller up-front investment. • Waste Management – At present, no permanent solution to high-level nuclear waste management has been deployed in the United States. Innovative solutions will be required to assure that nuclear waste is properly managed. The Administration has initiated the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future to conduct a review of policies for managing the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle, including all alternatives for the storage, processing, and disposal of civilian and defense used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste. The results will inform the Government’s process to establish a policy for used fuel and waste management. Ultimately, while the need for permanent waste disposal can never be eliminated, transition to nuclear energy technologies that significantly reduce the production of long-lived radioactive waste – rather than deal with it after it is produced – is a desirable goal. • Proliferation Risk – There is considerable interest in the global expansion of nuclear energy. However, such expansion raises concerns about the proliferation of nuclear weapons, including nuclear explosive devices, stemming from access to enrichment and reprocessing activities that might produce weapons-usable materials. Development of innovative technologies and international policies are essential to prevent nuclear proliferation by nation-states as well as nuclear terrorism by rogue entities. Furthermore, a more robust capability to evaluate and compare proliferation and terrorism risks is needed. In addition, it is in the U.S. interest to engage nations contemplating civil nuclear power for the first time in order to help them develop an indigenous infrastructure designed to deploy the technology in a safe and secure manner. • Safety and Reliability – As existing plants continue to operate and new plants and new types of plants are constructed, it is vital that the excellent safety and reliability record of nuclear energy in the United States be maintained. It is also important that the U.S. share its experience with other countries and work with them to ensure safe operation of their plants. 7 Ref. http://www.gallup.com/poll/117025/Support-Nuclear-Energy-Inches-New-High.aspx. APRIL 2010 9 NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ROADMAP 10 APRIL 2010 NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ROADMAP 3. MISSION AND GOALS OF THE OFFICE OF NUCLEAR ENERGY The analysis presented in Section 2 supports the conclusion that increased greenhouse gas-free electricity production is necessary to achieve the transition to a clean-energy economy. 3.1 The Office of Nuclear Energy Mission The primary mission of NE is to advance nuclear power as a resource capable of meeting the nation’s energy, environmental, and national security needs by resolving technical, cost, safety, security, and proliferation resistance, through R&D and demonstrations, as appropriate. Progress in these areas should promote the deployment of fission power systems in a socially acceptable, environmentally sustainable, and economically attractive manner. Four specific research and development objectives for nuclear energy development outline NE’s approach to delivering progress in the areas noted above. The objectives are: • R&D Objective 1 – Develop technologies and other solutions that can improve the reliability, sustain the safety, and extend the life of current reactors. • R&D Objective 2 – Develop improvements in the affordability of new reactors to enable nuclear energy to help meet the Administration's energy security and climate change goals. • R&D Objective 3 – Develop sustainable nuclear fuel cycles. • R&D Objective 4 – Understand and minimize the risks of nuclear proliferation and terrorism. The four objectives are discussed more fully in the following sections. 3.2 Nuclear Energy R&D Objectives and the Role of NE in Achieving Them This section presents a description of the four R&D objectives and NE’s role in making progress in these areas. APRIL 2010 11 NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ROADMAP 3.2.1 R&D Objective 1: Develop Technologies and Other Solutions that Can Improve the Reliability, Sustain the Safety, and Extend the Life of Current Reactors The existing U.S. nuclear fleet has a remarkable safety and performance record, and today these reactors account for 70 percent of the low GHG-emitting domestic electricity production. Extending the operating lifetimes of current plants beyond sixty years and, where possible, making further improvements in their productivity will generate near-term benefits. Industry has a significant financial incentive to extend the life of existing plants, and as such, activities will be cost shared. Federal R&D investments are appropriate to answer fundamental scientific questions and, where private investment is insufficient, to help make progress on broadly applicable technology issues that can generate public benefits. The DOE role in this R&D objective is to work with industry and, where appropriate, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to support and conduct the long-term research needed to inform major component refurbishment and replacement strategies, performance enhancements, plant license extensions, and age-related regulatory oversight decisions. The DOE R&D role will focus on aging phenomena and issues that require long-term research and are generic to reactor type. 3.2.2 R&D Objective 2: Develop Improvements in the Affordability of New Reactors to Enable Nuclear Energy to Help Meet the Administration's Energy Security and Climate Change Goals If nuclear energy is to be a strong component of the nation’s future energy portfolio, barriers to the deployment of new nuclear plants must be overcome. Impediments to new plant deployment, even for those designs based on familiar light-water reactor technology, include the substantial capital cost of new plants and the uncertainties in the time required to license and construct them. More advanced plant designs, such as small modular reactors (SMRs) and high-temperature reactors (HTRs), will have additional barriers for deployment. These reactors have characteristics that could make them more attractive than today’s technology. SMRs, for example, have the potential to achieve lower proliferation risk and more simplified construction than other designs. The development of next-generation reactors could present lower capital costs and improved efficiencies. These reactors may be based upon new designs that take advantage of the advances in high performance computing while leveraging capabilities afforded by improved structural materials. Industry’s role in overcoming the barriers in this area is substantial. DOE supports R&D ranging from fundamental nuclear phenomena to the development of advanced fuels that could improve the economic and safety performance of these advanced reactors. Nuclear power can reduce GHG emissions from electricity production and possibly in co-generation by displacing fossil fuels in the generation of process heat for applications including refining and the production of fertilizers and other chemical products. 12 APRIL 2010 NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ROADMAP 3.2.3 R&D Objective 3: Develop Sustainable Nuclear Fuel Cycles Sustainable fuel cycle options are those that improve uranium resource utilization, maximize energy generation, minimize waste generation, improve safety, and complement institutional measures in limiting proliferation risk. The key challenge for the government in this R&D objective is to develop a suite of options that will enable future decision makers to make informed choices about how best to manage the used fuel from reactors. DOE will conduct R&D in this area to investigate the technical challenges involved with three potential strategies for used fuel management. • Once-Through – Develop fuels for use in reactors that would increase the efficient use of uranium resources and reduce the amount of used fuel for direct disposal for each MWh of electricity produced. Additionally, evaluate the inclusion of non-uranium materials (e.g., thorium) in reactor fuel options that may reduce the long-lived radiotoxic elements in the used fuel that would go into a repository. • Modified Open Cycle – Investigate fuel forms and reactors that would increase utilization of the fuel resource and reduce the quantity of long-lived radiotoxic elements in the used fuel to be disposed (per MWh), with limited separations steps using technologies that substantially lower proliferation risk. • Full Recycling – Develop techniques that will enable the long-lived actinide elements to be repeatedly recycled rather than be disposed. The ultimate goal is to develop a cost- effective and low proliferation risk approach that would dramatically decrease the long- term danger posed by the waste, reducing uncertainties associated with its disposal. DOE will work to develop the best approaches within each of these tracks to inform waste management strategies and decision making. 3.2.4 R&D Objective 4: Understand and Minimize the Risks of Nuclear Proliferation and Terrorism It is important to assure that access to the benefits of nuclear power can be enabled while limiting nuclear proliferation and security risks. This goal requires an integrated approach that incorporates simultaneous development of nuclear fuel cycle technology, safeguards and security technologies and systems, new proliferation risk assessment tools, and non-proliferation frameworks and protocols. These activities must be informed by robust assessments that identify potential approaches for limiting risks of specific technologies and nuclear fuel cycle system options. NE will work with other organizations such as the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the Department of State, the NRC, and others in further defining, implementing and executing this integrated approach. Aspects of this research may help to inform the exploration of concepts such as international fuel service arrangements. APRIL 2010 13 NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ROADMAP 14 APRIL 2010

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