At the 8th steering committee meeting of the International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO) in Vienna in December, policy coordinator Akira Omoto welcomed two new project members – Ukraine and the USA, bringing the total membership to 24. He reported on very successful meetings with the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), resulting in a consensus that GIF and INPRO are complementary projects and would in future exchange information on a regular basis.
INPRO steering committee members agreed to meet in July 2006 to discuss the start of Phase 2. IAEA deputy director general Yuri Sokolov told NEI that the terms of reference for Phase 2 are “based on three main pillars: further improving methodology; infrastructure including global, regional and national scenarios; and facilitating R&D activity.”
An ad-hoc group is being set up to identify frameworks, options and guidelines for implementation of suitable areas for R&D under Phase 2 and several recommendations were made by INPRO members.
Russia suggested development of innovative fuel for fast reactors, such as vibro-packed fuel and pyrochemical recycling; consideration of innovative options in infrastructure development; the establishment of a database to accumulate INPRO results; and code benchmarking.
France also proposed benchmarking as well as providing guidance for innovative nuclear system development strategies. India proposed enhancement of web-based information exchange and offered to develop an INPRO Information Portal for the assessment of innovative nuclear energy systems. The European Commission suggested the safety of sodium-cooled fast reactors, in particular core deformation feedbacks.
Five countries proposed new assessments of possible future power reactors to be undertaken using INPRO’s methodology. These will be added to the six studies already underway as part of Phase 1B.
The meeting heard progress reports from the four of the six established assessment studies: a collaborative joint assessment of innovative nuclear systems based on a closed fuel cycle, and individual projects being undertaken by France, India and South Korea. Two other studies are being undertaken by Argentina and Armenia. New assessments were proposed by Brazil, China, the Czech Republic, Morocco and Ukraine.
Brazil’s suggested study is to assess the safety and economic aspects of a small IRIS reactor or a locally-designed fixed-bed reactor (FBNR) for use in a semi-arid part of northeast Brazil, primarily for desalination. Morocco proposed a study on public and private project financing for a nuclear plant and the Czech Republic wants to look at long-term energy planning in a joint undertaking with Bulgaria, Poland, Russia and Slovakia.
China is proposing that INPRO should include a project, which is already planned to start next year, involving R&D on an advanced high temperature gas-cooled reactor for possible deployment in 20 years. The reactor would be used to supply both power and process heat. The project could interface with Phase 2 of INPRO in terms of infrastructure, methodology and collaborative R&D.
Ukraine’s proposal is to assess the role of an innovative nuclear energy system in contributing to sustainable development and to identify possible R&D directions. The study may also include: assessment of environmental impacts of future electricity generation; analysis of the financial requirements of an envisaged nuclear power programme; and other areas identified in course of the study.
Reports on four of the six studies already under way began with the joint assessment on fast reactors, which involves Russia, India, France, South Korea, Ukraine and China—with Japan as an observer. Ukraine as a newcomer to INPRO will also participate in the Joint Study.
The results of the joint study so far showed that most of the participants prioritised sodium-cooled fast reactors; most saw the use of mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel as an initial transition phase to fast reactor use; and most were expecting commercialisation of fast reactors after 2020. An intermediate report is being prepared.
France also is conducting a separate study examining the transition from its present fleet of light-water reactors, through their expected replacement by new EPRs, and finally to fourth generation fast neutron systems by the end of the century. The study assumes a transition phase between present reactors and G-IV systems involving life extension of existing plants. These will be replaced by EPRs by 2020 and G-IV reactors by 2035-2040. France will use reprocessed uranium fuel only until 2011 and MOX fuel until 2025.
India presented an assessment study on the use of high-temperature reactors (HTRs) for hydrogen production. A compact HTR is being developed using thorium-uranium fuel and lead-bismuth as a coolant. The study will include an assessment of the optimum strategy for bringing substitutes to fluid fossil fuels into the national energy mix, in different timeframes. It will look at the possible contribution of hydrogen produced by nuclear energy to this mix; the long range innovative system options that would meet INPRO requirements for nuclear hydrogen generation; and the major areas of RD&D needed to fully develop these options.
South Korea’s assessment study centres on the proliferation resistance of its DUPIC fuel cycle, which involves dry processing of PWR fuel, without plutonium or actinide separation, for re-use in PHWRs. It will also recommend further improvements to the INPRO methodology in proliferation resistance. A draft report of the Korean study has been already prepared, and the final report will be completed at the end of January 2006.
Armenia is looking at innovative nuclear systems for countries with small electricity grids. Further progress on all these studies will be presented to the next INPRO Steering Committee meeting which will be held in July 2006.
INPRO methodology will be continuously improved through feedback from these studies, which will also be essential for the completion of a user manual and preparation for research issues. Draft versions of three sections of the manual are already available and two other sections are almost ready to circulate as drafts. One other section should be available at around this time and the proliferation resistance section are scheduled for the first quarter of 2006. Additional sections on the safety and security of innovative systems will be included in the methodology.
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