March 25, 2008

Idaho National Labs Strategic plan for light water nuclear reactors

Idaho National Lab Strategic plan for improving light water nuclear reactors This plan has not been adopted and funded yet, but recently released with INL's Utility Advisory Board and EPRI's Nuclear Power Council as the authors. I think the plan can and should be adopted, while parallel work is ongoing with uranium hydride reactors, molten salt reactors, high temperature gas reactors, IEC fusion and other alternative fusion and fission efforts.

Stretch Goals:
1. Life extension of the current fleet beyond 60 years (e.g., what would it
take to extend all lives to ~80 years?); and
2. Strong, sustained expansion of ALWRs throughout this century (e.g., what
would it take to proceed uninterrupted from first new plant deployments in
~2015 to sustained build-rates approaching 10+/year?).

Achieving a build rate of 10 plants per year, which on a sustained basis equates to about 50 plants under construction at any point in time, will require substantial investment in workforce training and new or refurbished manufacturing capability.



As of September 2007, 48 units have been granted 20-year license renewals by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), 14 more are in process, and over 30 units have stated their intent to file for license renewal. Given this success, it is assumed that all of the current plants will be licensed to 60 years. To extend the first plant retirements past mid-century will require another round of license extensions to 80 years. The first of these renewals are expected to be filed in the 2015–2020
timeframe, due to the lead times required for this important business decision.

Advanced Light Water Reactor Goals [new 2015-2020 reactors]
Goal 3: Successfully license, construct and operate the first mover ALWRs
through their first decade.
Goal 4: Remove the barriers to deployment of many new ALWRs.
Goal 5: Address lessons learned from the first ALWRs by developing new
technologies to improve performance.
Goal 6: Enable new missions and markets for ALWRs beyond electricity
production.

R & D goals
1. Sustain high performance of reactor plant materials
2. Transition to state-of-the-art digital I&C
3. Advances in nuclear fuel
a. Enhance fuel reliability and performance
b. Develop high-burnup (HBU) fuel [85 Gwd/t target]
The HBU fuel program is expected to take about 10 years, and involves test and qualification of innovative fuels with uranium enrichment above 5%
4. Implement broad-spectrum workforce development
5. Implement broad-spectrum infrastructure improvements and design for sustainability
6. Address electricity infrastructure-wide problems that are NOT unique to nuclear energy but nevertheless pose unacceptable risks to current plant operations and new plant siting
a. Develop alternative cooling technologies
- Conventional ‘dry cooling’ greatly reduces the water required but incurs large (over 15%) parasitic power losses.
b. Expand high-voltage transmission infrastructure
7. Advanced fabrication, construction and inspection methods
8. Extend the application of risk management technologies and understanding of safety
margins
9. Improve operational performance
10. Expand LWR technology into new missions and markets
a. Develop LWRs for application in regional markets
-
As an illustration, the heaviest equipment transportable on rail is 800 tons (about double the weight of a modern ALWR vessel), but is limited to a height of 16 feeti above the rail surface—well below the 20 foot diameter of a modern vessel. This research area would assess the economic and technical feasibility of developing optimum-size plants to meet this need, balancing economies of scale with the above constraints. This area may also consider markets that need or could use ALWRs of sizes even larger than those being licensed today, as dictated by regional demand.

b. Develop desalination and process heat technologies


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