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ICEF 2nd. Annual Meeting Summary: Concurrent Session - Nuclear Energy

Posted by ICEF Secretariat August 27, 2015

Nuclear power can play a major role as carbon-free base load power source to serve the growing electricity demand of the world. In this session, we will discuss the deployment of nuclear power plants in emerging and developing economies, strategies to make nuclear power more acceptable for society, and the prospect of R&D, along with how we can overcome challenges such as safety, nuclear waste handling, and non-proliferation of nuclear arms.

ICEF2015 Program

 

 

 

    

Richard Lester [Chair], Japan Steel Industry Professor and Head of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Nuclear energy is already making an important contribution to carbon mitigation worldwide.  But the magnitude of the climate challenge is so great that the global nuclear contribution will need to grow by a factor of two or three by mid-century if it is to play more than a minor additional role in future climate mitigation efforts.  However, when all current national plans for nuclear expansion are aggregated and combined with the expected retirement of much of the existing nuclear fleet as these plants reach their end of life, the global nuclear contribution to carbon mitigation seems likely to grow only modestly and may even shrink.
In this panel session we will consider the role of innovation in closing the gap between global plans and the global need for nuclear energy.   If nuclear is to realize its potential to drive the transition to an affordable, reliable, low-carbon global energy system, a technology that is already much safer than when the first commercial reactors were built more than 40 years ago may need to be made safer still, as well as less expensive, more secure against the threats of nuclear proliferation and terrorism, better suited to the needs of developing economies, and better able to provide low-carbon energy inputs for a broad range of applications beyond conventional baseload electricity generation.
In fact there is more experimentation and innovation in the nuclear field today than we have seen in a very long time.  In the U.S. and Canada alone it is estimated that $1.3 billion in private capital has recently been allocated to the development of advanced nuclear technologies.  But this is a world-wide effort, and it will be important for Japanese nuclear innovators to participate actively in it.  The panel will consider obstacles to nuclear innovation and how they might be overcome.

    

Christophe Béhar, Director, Nuclear Energy Division, French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA)

France is well known for being an advanced country in the nuclear energy field, whether on the industrial or R&D side. Around 75% of our electricity comes nowadays from nuclear, and with the help of hydro, solar and wind energy, it is more than 90% of our electricity that is carbon free.

We are now in France implementing a new energy transition bill. This bill, while fostering the development of renewable energies, ensures that nuclear energy will stay the main source of electricity in France in the near future, showing that these two sources of energy are perfectly complementary.

In order to have a sustainable development of nuclear energy, the use of fast neutron reactors, and its associated closed fuel cycle is a strong candidate: it will lead to the total recycling of Pu, a drastic improvement in U resources conservation, and a large decrease in the radiotoxicity and footprint of final wastes compare to the current situation.

That’s why we are developing in CEA the ASTRID project, a 600 MWe technological demonstrator of sodium cooled fast reactor. Its design takes place within a broad cooperation framework with public institutes and privates companies, from France, Europe and the world, led by the nuclear energy division of CEA.

We believe that the gradual introduction of these reactors from 2050 onwards, and an equilibrium between Gen III and Gen IV reactors for the end of this century, will lead to a truly sustainable development of nuclear energy.

    

William D. Magwood IV, Director-General, OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA)

The NEA contributes to analysis of all aspects of sustainability involving the use of nuclear energy, with expert groups and studies in the areas of nuclear energy policy and economics, nuclear safety, waste management and nuclear science. It is our mission to facilitate the cooperation among interested countries with deep nuclear experience to answer the questions posed by the challenges of today and the responsibilities we all have to future generations.  The work we pursue is the work necessary to set the world on a path toward sustainability; sustainability that protects the environment now and in the future, provides energy for the improvement of the human condition globally, and supports economic expansion to the benefit of all.
In this regard, working with our sister organization, the International Energy Agency, we have found that the most practical path to ensuring the security of energy supply in order to protect social development while meeting the objective of limiting carbon emissions consistent with the 2°C objective is to pursue the increased use of nuclear energy in combination with other low-carbon technologies.
In the next several decades, this contribution can be provided by current nuclear energy technologies.  But nuclear energy must continue to evolve to deal with persistent concerns in the public about safety and among investors regarding the economics of building very large, complex central stations.  It must further internalize the handling of nuclear wastes in the face of the oft-seen political difficulties in many countries to address the disposition of spent fuel and high-level radioactive wastes.  This is the role that Generation IV technologies can fulfil?if the research and development necessary is performed in the coming years.“

 

    

Nobuo Tanaka, President, The Sasakawa Peace Foundation; Former Executive Director, International Energy Agency (IEA)

Integral Fast Reactor (IFR), an option to clean up the melt-downed debris at Fukushima
At the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the spent fuels stored in the fourth unit were relocated. The decontamination of accumulated water and release to the ocean has been progressed. Next comes the decommissioning of the reactors but treatment of the melt-downed spent fuel debris will be most challenging. Once taken out from the reactor, the debris shall not be moved to other prefectures. It must be treated and stored in the Fukushima site. The IFR and Pyroprocessing, developed at the Argonne National Laboratory of the US can be deployed to solve the problem. Pyroprocessing is most suitable to separate highly radioactive Minor Actinide and Plutonium from other materials to burn in the IFR. The IFR is a fast reactor that was proven to be passive-safe and proliferation resistant.
Four and half years have passed since the Fukushima accident but the majority of Japanese still oppose to restarting nuclear power.  "Three E’s + S" argument (Economy, Energy security, Environment and Safety) is not sufficient to regain the public trust.  Truely  sustainable nuclear system requires additional features such as passive safety, easy radioactive waste management and proliferation resistance.  IFR demonstration for melt-downed debris  at the Fukushima may pave the way to further deployment in other locations to show the new paradigm of decentralized nuclear power system.