IEA 2050 Energy Roadmap and US Nuclear Uprate Status

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Annual power sector carbon dioxide emnission reductions in the BLUE Map scenario in 2050 compared to the Badeline scenario, by technology area. Nuclear is the only major contributor that need no technical breakthrough (Source: IEA)

1. Nuclear power could become the world’s single biggest source of electricity by 2050 according the IEA roadmap.

Given correct action to promote a stable policy regime and an adequate industrial base by 2020, nuclear power could grow by 320% to 1200 MWe before 2050. Achieving this would mean completing about 20 large reactors each year, meaning “the rate of construction starts of new nuclear plants will need to roughly double from its present level by 2020, and continue to increase more slowly after that date.” This clearly achievable rate of work is enough to replace every single reactor operating now and grow nuclear power’s contribution to 24% of global electricity supplies even while energy demand doubles.

A high nuclear scenario, which the roadmap did not examine in detail, places nuclear power at 38% of power supplies with a total generating capacity of about 1900 MWe. This level of nuclear would bring even greater emissions savings – as well as an 11% cut in power prices.

2. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved four power uprates (56 MWe) over the last year – and is reviewing another 16 which, if approved, would add over 1100 MWe to the country’s nuclear generating capacity.

Of the 16 outstanding power uprate applications, 8 are also for MURs, but 8 are for extended power uprates (EPUs), requiring significant modifications to major plant equipment but resulting in capacity increases as high as 20%. The regulator anticipates completing the review for at least 11 of the applications – EPUs at Point Beach 1 and 2 and Nine Mile Point plus MURs at Prairie Island 1 and 2, Surry 1 and 2, LaSalle 1 and 2 and Limerick 1 and 2 – by the end of the year.

Over the next five years the NRC estimates that it will receive a total of 39 new power uprate applications totalling 7258 MWt (2419 MWe). Earlier this year, Shaw Group chairman Jim Bernhard estimated the value of the US reactor uprate market at around $25 billion


3. A South Korean consortium is investing $83 million to develop a SMART 100 MWe (300 MWt) reactor

Smart is a 330 MWt pressurised water reactor with integral steam generators and advanced safety features. The unit is designed for electricity generation (up to 100 MWe) as well as thermal applications such as seawater desalination, with a 60-year design life and three-year refuelling cycle. While the basic design is complete, development had been stalled by the absence of any orders for an initial reference unit. Earlier this year, Kaeri and Posco signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to carry out joint research and development on technologies for Smart and Very High Temperature Reactors (VHTRs). A standard design for the reactor is now expected to be completed by the end of the year.

TerraPower of the USA, would-be developer of the Travelling Wave Reactor, has announced it has raised over $35 million of funding from venture capitalists in a second financing round. The Washington-based company is working on the concept which would use depleted uranium packed inside hundreds of hexagonal pillars. The uranium is bred into plutonium, which undergoes fission, in a ‘wave’ that moves through the core at only one centimetre per year, in what has been likened to a ‘candle reactor’ as the wave ‘burns’ from one end of the reactor to the other

This week also saw the official launch by Advanced Reactor Concepts (ARC) of its ARC-100 modular 100 MWe sodium-cooled fast reactor model. ARC wants to commercialise the technology, which is based on the 62.5 MWt Experimental Breeder Reactor II (EBR-II). The EBR-II prototype reactor operated at the Idaho National Laboratory from 1963 to 1994, producing some 19 MWe for about 30 years. The ACR-100 would use a novel metal alloy fuel, with the uranium-fuelled reactor core submerged in a tank of liquid sodium at ambient pressure. It would have a refuelling interval of 20 years.


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