OVERVIEW OF GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT OF ADVANCED NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS1
Nuclear power has strong potential to play an increasing role in meeting growing energy needs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and in providing energy security and price stability while achieving very stringent safety goals. This article summarizes nuclear power's status and potential, means for achieving very competitive economics, very high safety levels and proliferation resistance for advanced plants; overviews global development of advanced plants, including non-power applications; and summarizes international initiatives.
By mid-2005, there were 440 nuclear power plants in operation worldwide, with a total capacity of 366.8 GWe. Further, 24 units were under construction. During 2004 nuclear power produced 2618.6 billion kWh of electricity, which was 16% of the world's total. Based on information provided by its Member States, the IAEA projects that nuclear power will produce between 2776 and 2881 billion kWh annually by 2010, between 3055 and 3769 billion kWh annually by 2020, and between 3115 and 4753 billion kWh annually by 2030 . Other organizations project increases too. Based on information in the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios by the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change , the projected median increase in nuclear capacity by 2050 is nearly five times today's capacity.
2. Achieving Advanced Plant Development Goals
Various organizations, including design organizations, utilities, universities, national laboratories, and research institutes are involved in advanced nuclear plant development. Global trends in advanced reactor designs and technology are periodically summarized by the IAEA [3-7] to provide balanced and objective information.
Advanced designs comprise two categories: Evolutionary designs achieve improvements over existing designs through small to moderate modifications, with a strong emphasis on maintaining proven design features to minimize technological risks. Their development requires at most engineering and confirmatory testing. Innovative designs incorporate radical changes in design approaches or system configuration in comparison with existing practice. Substantial R&D, feasibility tests, and a prototype or demonstration plant are probably required.
In the near term most new nuclear plants will likely be evolutionary designs often pursuing economies of scale. In the longer term, innovative designs which promise even shorter construction times and lower capital costs could help to promote a new era of nuclear power. Several innovative designs are in the small-to-medium size (SMR) range(1) and could be particularly attractive for the introduction of nuclear power into developing countries and for remote locations.
2.1. Economic competitiveness
Capital costs for nuclear plants generally account for 45-75% of the total nuclear electricity generation costs, compared to 25-60% for coal plants and 15-40% for gas plants. Nuclear power's advantage is in its low fuel costs, relative to fossil, and especially to gas, fired generating stations. Design organizations quote generation cost (capital, operation and maintenance, and fuel) targets in the range of 3-5 US cents/kWh, which are highly competitive with fossil alternatives.
Reducing the capital cost to meet these generation cost targets presents a significant challenge, which design organizations are addressing by incorporating both proven means and new approaches for reducing costs into their advanced designs. Moreover, design organizations are designing plants suitable for various grid capacities and owner investment capabilities, including large sizes for some markets and small and medium sizes for others.
Proven means for reducing plant costs.
Experience has provided proven means for reducing costs of nuclear projects [8,9].
Economies of scale are being pursued in, for example, the Republic of Korea, India and Japan for new evolutionary water-cooled reactors.
Shortening the construction schedule reduces the financing charges that accrue without countervailing revenue. The schedule can be shortened by manufacture of modular systems to reduce on-site and tailor-made construction. Addressing licensing issues before start of construction is also key, as is efficient project management. Recent good experience includes extensive use of integrated design tools (Computer Aided Design and Engineering) that facilitate modularization, improvements in system arrangement and accessibility, and coordination of procurement with construction activities.
Standardization and construction in series offer savings by spreading fixed costs over several units, and from productivity gains in equipment manufacturing, field engineering, and construction. A detailed account of the lessons from standardized plant design and construction in France is provided in Ref. . Standardization is also leading to cost reduction for Japan's advanced boiling water reactors (ABWRs) the Republic of Korea's Korean Standard Nuclear Plants (KSNPs) and India's heavy water reactors (HWRs).
Closely related is multiple unit construction at a single site. The average cost for identical units on the same site can be about 15% lower than the cost of a single unit, with savings coming mostly in siting and licensing costs, site labour and common facilities. The 58 PWRs in France built as multiple units at 19 sites are good examples.
In developing countries, furthering self-reliance, and enhancing local participation are goals pursued by governments for policy reasons. Cost savings in materials and construction, training and labor result. For example, experience in China is that the construction cost (per kWe) of the Qinshan-II plant (2 x 600 MWe units) is less than for imported large-size plants because of localization of design and provision of a large part of the equipment by domestic organizations .
New approaches for reducing plant costs.
New approaches  can be summarized as follows:
2.2. Achieving very high safety levels
In the latter part of the twentieth century, there have been significant developments in reactor safety technology, including:
While there are differences in safety requirements among countries developing new designs, the stringent requirements are reflected in the IAEA's Safety Standards Series [see for example 11,12] and in publications by the International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group (INSAG) [13,14]. From these documents, a number of safety goals for future plants can be identified:
To further reduce the probability of accidents and to mitigate their consequences, designers of new plants are adopting various technical measures. Examples are:
Some new designs rely on well-proven and highly reliable active safety systems to remove decay heat from the primary system and to remove heat from the containment building during accidents. Others incorporate safety systems that rely on passive means using, for example, gravity, natural circulation, and compressed gas as driving forces to transfer heat from the reactor or the containment. Considerable development and testing of passive safety systems has been carried out in several countries. In other designs a coupling of active and passive systems is adopted. For each of these approaches, the main requirement is that safety systems fulfill the necessary functions with appropriate reliability.
The potential linkage between the peaceful use of nuclear energy and the proliferation of nuclear weapons has been a continuing societal concern. To ensure the absence of un-declared nuclear material and activities or diversion of nuclear material for weapons purposes, the current international non-proliferation regime consists of:
Proliferation resistance is defined  as that characteristic of a nuclear energy system that impedes the diversion or undeclared production of nuclear material, or misuse of technology, by States intent on acquiring nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. The degree of proliferation resistance results from a combination of, inter alia, technical design features, operational modalities, institutional arrangements and safeguards measures.
Intrinsic proliferation resistance features are those features that result from the technical design of nuclear energy systems, including those that facilitate the implementation of extrinsic measures2. Extrinsic proliferation resistance measures are those measures that result from States' decisions and undertakings related to nuclear energy systems. Examples of intrinsic features are : the nuclear material's chemical form, radiation field, heat generation, spontaneous neutron generation rate; complexity of, and time required for modifications necessary to use a civilian facility for a weapons production facility; mass and bulk of nuclear material; skills, expertise and knowledge required to divert or produce nuclear material and convert it to weapons useable form; time required to divert or produce nuclear material and convert it to weapons useable form; and design features that limit access to nuclear material.
In recent years the non-proliferation regime has come under increasing strain, and international discussions have emphasized the urgent need to strengthen the regime. In 2004 IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei appointed an international expert group to consider options for possible multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle. Ref 17 presents suggested means to increase non-proliferation assurances while preserving assurances of supply and services through a set of gradually introduced multinational approaches.
3. Overview of Development of Advanced Plants
3.1. Light water reactors (LWRs)
LWRs comprise over 80% of the nuclear units worldwide, and this is reflected in the considerable activities to develop advanced LWRs.
3.1.1. Evolutionary LWRs
In France and Germany, Framatome ANP has designed the European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR), which meets European utility requirements. The EPR's power level of 1560 MWe has been selected to capture economies of scale relative to the latest series of PWRs operating in France (the N4 series) and Germany (the Konvoi series). In December 2003, Teollisuuden Voima Oy (TVO) of Finland contracted with Framatome ANP and Siemens AG for an EPR for the Olkiluoto site. Commercial operation is planned for mid-2009. Also, Electricite de France is planning to construct an EPR at Flamanville (Unit 3). Start of construction is projected for 2007. Framatome ANP is also developing the SWR-1000, an advanced BWR with passive safety features.
FIG. 1. Olkiluoto-3 site and artist's concept of completed plant (credit: TVO).
In Japan, benefits of standardization and series construction are being realized with the ABWR units. The first two ABWRs, the 1360 MWe Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 6 and 7 units, began operation in 1996 and 1997, Hamaoka 5 began operation in January 2005, an ABWR is under construction at Shika 2, and deployment programmes are underway for 8 more. Two ABWRs are under construction in Taiwan, China.
Aiming to further evolve the ABWR, with the goal of significant reduction in power generation costs relative to a standardized ABWR, a development programme was started in Japan in 1991 for ABWR-II. Benefits of economies-of-scale are expected, with commissioning of the first unit foreseen for the late 2010s. Also the basic design of a large advanced PWR has been completed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Westinghouse for the Japan Atomic Power Company's Tsuruga-3 and -4 units, and a larger version, the APWR+, is being designed.
In the Republic of Korea, the benefits of standardization and series construction are being realized with the Korean Standard Nuclear Plants (KSNPs). Six KSNPs are in commercial operation. The accumulated experience is being used by Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) to develop the improved KSNP+. The first units of KSNP+ will be Shin-Kori 1 and 2 with commercial operation in 2010 and 2011. KHNP's APR-1400 builds on the KSNP experience with the higher power level to capture economies-of-scale. In 2001, KHNP started the Shin-kori 3,4 APR1400 project, with completion scheduled for 2012 and 2013.
In the USA, designs for a large advanced pressurized water reactor (the Combustion Engineering System 80+) and a large BWR (General Electric's ABWR) were certified by the U.S.NRC in 1997. Westinghouse's mid-size AP-600 design with passive safety systems was certified in 1999. Westinghouse has developed the AP-1000 applying the passive safety technology developed for the AP-600 with the goal of reducing capital costs through economies-of-scale. Westinghouse received Final Design Approval for the AP-1000 from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (U.S.NRC) in September 2004 and Design Certification is expected in 2005. A Westinghouse led international team is developing the modular, integral IRIS design in the small to medium-size range. It is in pre-application review phase with the U.S.NRC, and Design Certification is targeted for 2008-2010. General Electric is designing a large ESBWR applying economies-of-scale and modular passive system technology. The ESBWR is in the pre-application review phase with the U.S.NRC.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Nuclear Power 2010 programme, together with industry, is funding development of three early site permits and work toward preparation of three combined construction permit and operating license applications (COL) with the U.S.NRC. The COL process is a "one-step" process by which safety concerns are resolved prior to start of construction, and the NRC issues a license for construction and operation of a new plant.
In the Russian Federation, Atomenergoproject / Gidropress is designing the evolutionary WWER-1000 (V-392) building on experience from the currently operating WWER-1000 plants. Two evolutionary units are planned at the Novovoronezh site, and WWER-1000 units are under construction in China, India and the Islamic Republic of Iran. A mid-size WWER-640 with passive systems has also been developed, and development of a large WWER-1500 has been initiated.
In China, the China National Nuclear Corporation is developing the CNP-1000 incorporating experience from the design, construction and operation of the Qinshan and Daya Bay NPPs.
3.1.2. Innovative LWRs
Several small sized designs are of the integral type with the steam generator housed in the same vessel as the reactor core to eliminate primary system piping. The Argentinian CAREM reactor is cooled by natural circulation, and has passive safety systems. Designers of CAREM are planning a prototype (27 MWe) plant prior to commercialization. The SMART design developed in the Republic of Korea is an integral PWR. A 1/5th scale, 65 MWth, pilot plant will be constructed with operation planned in 2008. The Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute is developing the small passively safe integral PSRD-100 system for electricity and/or heat supply and seawater desalination, and Mitsubishi together with other organizations is developing the IMR design for electricity production.
In Russia, OKBM has developed the VBER-300 integral design and the KLT-40, a floating small NPP design for electricity and heat, which has been licensed in Russia. RDIPE has developed the VK-300 BWR design for electricity and district heating.
In Japan the Toshiba Corporation and the Tokyo Institute of Technology are developing a small size long operating cycle, natural circulation LSBWR with passive safety systems and a 15-year core life. Hitachi Ltd. is developing a mid-size Simplified BWR (HSBWR), a mid-size Advanced BWR (HABWR), and a small-size BWR with passive safety systems and a 20-year core life.
Also in Japan, with the goals of sustainable energy through high conversion (a conversion ratio equal to or beyond 1.0) of fertile isotopes to fissile isotopes, Hitachi Ltd. is developing the large-size, reduced moderation RBWR and Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI) is developing the large-size RMWR.
A prototype or a demonstration plant will most likely be required for thermodynamically supercritical water-cooled systems, which have been selected for development by the Generation-IV International Forum (see Section 4). In a supercritical system the reactor operates above the critical point of water (22.4 MPa and 374 °C) resulting in higher thermal efficiency than current LWRs. Thermal efficiencies of 40-45% are projected with simplified plant designs. The large-size SCPR concept being developed by Toshiba Hitachi and the University of Tokyo is an example. The European Commission has supported the HP-LWR project to assess the merit of a thermodynamically supercritical LWR. Activities on thermodynamically super-critical concepts are also on-going at universities and research centers in the USA and Russia.
3.2. Heavy water reactors (HWRs)
About 8% of the operating nuclear plants are HWRs. Heavy water moderation provides good neutron economy and, with on-line refuelling, makes possible the use of natural uranium fuel.
In Canada, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd is developing the Advanced Candu Reactor using slightly enriched uranium and light water coolant. Also, AECL is developing an innovative design with supercritical light-water coolant.
In India, a process of evolution of HWR design has been carried out since the Rajasthan 1 and 2 projects. India's 540 MWe HWR design incorporates feedback from the indigenously designed 220 MWe units3, and in June 2005 the first of two 540 MWe units at Tarapur was connected to the grid. India is also designing an evolutionary 700 MWe HWR, and an Advanced Heavy Water Reactor using heavy water moderation with boiling light water coolant in vertical pressure tubes, optimized for utilization of thorium, and with passive safety systems.
3.3. Gas-cooled reactors (GCRs)
In the United Kingdom, the nuclear electricity is mostly generated by CO2-cooled, graphite moderated Magnox and advanced gas-cooled reactors. In several countries prototype and demonstration GCR plants with helium coolant using the Rankine steam cycle for electric power generation have been built and operated. Currently two helium cooled test reactors are in operation: the High-Temperature Engineering Test Reactor (HTTR) at JAERI in Japan and the HTR-10 at the Institute of Nuclear Energy Technology in China.
In South Africa, Russia, the USA, France and Japan considerable efforts are devoted to the direct cycle gas-turbine high temperature reactor, which promises high thermal efficiency and low power generation cost. Design and safety review of a demonstration unit of the 168 MWe pebble bed modular high-temperature reactor in South Africa has been completed and a licensing review is underway.
3.4. Fast reactors
Fast reactors have been under development for many years in several countries, primarily as breeders. Plutonium breeding allows fast reactors to extract sixty-to-seventy times more energy from uranium than thermal reactors do - a capability that will allow very substantial increases in nuclear power in the longer term. Fast reactors can also contribute to reducing plutonium stockpiles, and to reducing the required isolation time for high-level radioactive waste by utilizing transuranic radioisotopes and transmuting some long-lived fission products.
The design and operation of sodium-cooled fast reactors, such as the small size Prototype Fast Reactor in the United Kingdom, the prototype Phénix in France, the BN-350 in Kazakstan (part of its thermal energy was used for sea-water desalination), the demonstration BN-600 in Russia, Monju in Japan, and the commercial size Superphénix in France, have provided an experience base of more than 200 reactor-years. In addition, this is a considerable base of experience with lead-bismuth (eutectic) cooled propulsion (submarine) reactors operated in Russia.
Examples of current activities include: the construction in China of the small size Chinese Experimental Fast Reactor with criticality scheduled for 2008; the development of the small-size KALIMER design in the Republic of Korea; the successful operation of the Indian Fast Breeder Test Reactor and its utilization for fast reactor R&D, especially fuel irradiation and materials research; the medium size Prototype FBR in India for which construction started in 2004; and the restart of Phénix in France in 2003 to conduct experiments on long-lived radioactive nuclide incineration and transmutation.
FIG. 2. Chinese Experimental Fast Reactor (Credit: CIAE, 2005).
4. International Initiatives for innovative plants
Two major international efforts, the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) and the IAEA's International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO) are underway to help to assure that nuclear energy is an integral part of the future energy mix.
GIF is a group of countries4 developing a new generation of nuclear energy systems that offer advantages in the areas of economics, safety and reliability, sustainability, and could be deployed commercially by 2030. Six systems have been selected, and a Technology Roadmap has been prepared to guide the research and development. The systems are:
INPRO is based on an IAEA General Conference resolution in September 2000 inviting all interested Member States, both technology suppliers and technology users, to consider jointly international and national actions required to achieve desired innovations in nuclear reactors and fuel cycles. INPRO's5 objectives are (a) to help to ensure that nuclear energy is available to contribute to fulfilling energy needs in the 21st century in a sustainable manner; and (b) to bring together all interested Member States to consider jointly the actions required to achieve desired innovations in nuclear reactors and fuel cycles. The INPRO time horizon is 50 years. INPRO has prepared basic principles and user requirements6 for innovative energy systems in the areas of economics, safety, environment, waste management, proliferation resistance and infrastructure, and has published guidelines for evaluation of innovative systems . INPRO member countries are presently applying this methodology in assessment studies.
5. Expanded Applications of Nuclear Energy
About one-fifth of the world's energy consumption is used for electricity generation. Most of the world's energy consumption is for heat and transportation. Nuclear energy has considerable potential to penetrate into these energy sectors now served by fossil fuels with price volatility and finite supply.
The temperature requirements for various heat applications vary from around 100 - 150 °C for hot water and steam for district heating and seawater desalination, up to 1000°C for hydrogen production by thermo-chemical processes. The major applications are at the lower temperatures using water-cooled reactors and at the high temperatures using high temperature gas cooled reactors. High temperature applications are in the laboratory or small-scale demonstration phase with significant R&D required prior to large-scale deployment
5.1. District heating
District heating networks in large cities generally have installed capacities in the range of 600 to 1200 MW(th), decreasing to approximately 10 to 50 MW(th) in towns and small communities. Experience with nuclear district heating has been gained in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland and the Ukraine.
5.2. Seawater desalination
Demand for fresh water is rapidly growing throughout the world and some regions already suffer severe shortages. Seawater desalination is a process of separating dissolved saline components from seawater to obtain fresh water with low salinity, adequate for irrigation, drinking and industrial use. Nuclear desalination is the production of potable water from seawater in an integrated facility in which a nuclear reactor is used as the source of energy (electrical and/or thermal) for the desalination process on the same site. The facility may be dedicated solely to the production of potable water, or may be used for the co-generation of electricity and production of potable water. Kazakhstan, Japan, India and Pakistan have experience with nuclear seawater desalination, and several other countries are considering its introduction.
In the near term, nuclear power can contribute to transportation by providing low and stable priced electricity for electric vehicles and for plug-in hybrid vehicles 7.
Furthermore, hydrogen as an energy carrier is receiving increasing attention, and nuclear energy is well placed as an efficient and clean source of energy for hydrogen production. Hydrogen can be produced by nuclear energy by various means, ranging from low temperature electrolysis of water to high temperature thermo-chemical processes for water-splitting. Nuclear energy can contribute to the initial introduction of a transportation system based on hydrogen (e.g. fuel cell vehicles) by providing low price electricity for hydrogen production by water electrolysis at the fuelling station. While the efficiency of this process is lower than the efficiency of hydrogen production with high temperature thermo-chemical water-splitting processes (at temperatures up to 1000 °C) or with high-temperature electrolysis, the technology is currently available. In the longer term, production of hydrogen by these high temperature processes at central nuclear stations connected to extensive hydrogen distribution networks could be widely implemented.
Activities are pursued in several countries toward achieving hydrogen's potential for solving energy security, diversity, and environmental needs, and its production with nuclear energy. For example, the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute plans to demonstrate nuclear hydrogen production at the HTTR by about 2015. In the USA, construction of a next generation nuclear plant (NGNP) for co-generation of hydrogen and electricity to operate by 2021 is under consideration.
5.4. Heat for other industrial processes
Process heat is used in industries for a variety of applications. The pulp, paper and textile industries require heat at temperatures of 200 to 300 °C. Chemical industries, oil refining, oil shale and oil-sand processing and coal gasification require temperatures up to 500-600 °C. The demands of large industrial users usually have base load characteristics. Experience with provision of process steam by nuclear energy for industrial purposes has been gained in Canada, Germany, Norway and Switzerland.
With a 16% share, nuclear power contributes significantly to the world's electricity supply and has great potential to expand, and to contribute to emerging needs such as seawater desalination, hybrid electric vehicles and hydrogen production. Considerable development is on-going for new, advanced nuclear power plants with competitive economics and very high safety levels.
At the same time, nuclear power faces significant challenges, including: continuing to achieve a high level of safety; implementing high level waste disposal; and strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Success in these areas will provide a sound basis for establishing nuclear power as a sustainable energy source.
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R. E. Uhrig, Using Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles to Drastically Reduce Petroleum-Based Fuel Consumption and Emissions; the Bent of Tau Beta Pi, Spring 2005
1. The IAEA classifies plants as:
Large-size: 700 MWe and larger
Medium-size: 300 -700 MWe
Small-size: below 300 MWe
2. IAEA has published guidelines for plant design measures , which, if taken into account in the design phase, will help to ensure efficient acquisition of safeguards data and minimize the impact of the safeguards activities on plant operations. These guidelines incorporate IAEA's experience in implementing safeguards, and developing safeguards technologies. These guidelines address, for example, design of the spent fuel pool area to facilitate viewing of the spent fuel assemblies; provisions that facilitate the verification of fuel transfers out of the spent fuel pool; provision of appropriate back-up for power supply outages to avoid interruption of power to safeguards equipment; provision of access to appropriate penetrations in the containment building for data transfer lines serving remote safeguards equipment; and other design measures.
3. The most recent 220 MWe plants, the Kaiga-1 and -2 units and the Rajasthan-3 and -4 units, were connected to the grid in 2000.
4. Members are Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Euratom, France, Japan, the Republic of Korea, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
5. As of June 2005, members of INPRO include Argentina, Armenia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Chile, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Morocco, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, the Ukraine and the European Commission.
6. In the context of INPRO, a basic principle is a statement of a general rule providing guidance for the development of an innovative nuclear energy system. A user requirement is a condition that should be met to achieve users' acceptance of an innovative nuclear energy system.
7. Plug-in hybrid vehicles combine an electric motor and a battery that can be charged with electricity generated by a utility, with gasoline engine.
1. This article has been included in the September-October 2005 issue of Nuclear Plant Journal.
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