U.S. and South Korean Cooperation in the World Nuclear Energy Market: Major Policy Considerations

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These vendors are likely to be joined soon by Japanese and possibly South Korean manufacturers. Source: Bodansky Reprinted by permission of Springer-Verlag, New York. Some basic research on materials and chemistry sponsored by ER is also applicable to nuclear power issues. Taken together, efforts funded by these DOE programs contribute to the knowledge and technology base underlying fission energy, as well as to their primary mission areas.

However, it is very hard to identify-other than for NE, NR, and RW-the specific levels of investment that are relevant to nuclear power. AID , primarily for facilities operation and international efforts. Navy''s fleet of nuclear ships and submarines. Current work of potential relevance to commercial nuclear power includes brittle-fracture test analysis, development of reactor-vessel annealing techniques, steam generator technology, and support for advanced computer codes.

The primary activity supported is the characterization of the Yucca Mountain Site, including the preparation of a viability assessment.

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These issues include, for example, materials degradation in a radiation environment, component and systems reliability, advanced design and manufacturing, digital instrumentation and controls, nuclear fuels, and computational models and analysis tools. Unfortunately, there is no centralized compilation of such laboratory activities and capabilities to guide technology integration and utilization across disciplines, technologies, and sponsors. Coordination, integration, and interdisciplinary synergism occur to a much greater extent within one laboratory, or a small group of laboratories, than among the DOE program offices sponsoring the work.

Key obstacles to nuclear power''s acceptability are nuclear waste disposal, cost, reactor safety, and potential for weapons proliferation. These plans were shared with the Panel, with the understanding that they provide a snapshot of the program''s outyear thinking, but do not necessarily reflect what will be in the President''s FY budget request. Table 5. Nuclear Waste So far no country has solved the problem of how to dispose of highly radioactive and long-lived nuclear waste-the fission products from plant operations.

The United States, like many countries, has committed to using a geologic repository for permanent disposal.

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RW manages the DOE program for developing such a repository, which is planned to provide for permanent geological disposal of the waste. Since , when Congress selected Yucca Mountain, Nevada, as the site, RW has concentrated on developing the information necessary to license that site. The next major step is to complete the viability assessment of Yucca Mountain, due in The program is funded from two sources because the repository is designed both for spent fuel from commercial power reactors and for defense wastes resulting from nuclear weapons production and cleaning up weapons production sites.

The commercial program is funded by the Nuclear Waste Disposal Fund, which collects a fee of 1 mil per kWh on the generation of electricity from nuclear power plants. DOE also funds a program to develop electrometallurgical methods for treating DOE''s own spent nuclear fuels.

NE shared with the Panel its new proposal to start a program on spent-fuel minimization in FY This program originally was included in the FY NES request, and has as its goal to double the burnup of reactor fuel. Current reactor fuel is licensed for 60, MW-days per metric ton of heavy metal.


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Improving the burnup would have no direct impact on GHG emissions, 12 would require thorough testing to demonstrate no degradation in safety, might reduce the risk of proliferation because of the decreased amount of spent fuel, and could slightly lower operating costs. DOE''s main rationale for the program is to reduce the Federal government''s waste-disposal costs. Cost For nuclear power to be cost-competitive, operating costs must be kept low. Because capital costs are a larger part of the total life-cycle costs of nuclear plants than they are of most other types of generation, the time to build a nuclear plant is also extremely important.

For new nuclear plants to be even considered, the capital costs must be significantly lower than the recent averages, which means, in particular, cutting construction times by at least 50 percent, to less than 5 years, as has been achieved in other countries. Current U. There are many reasons that some plants took longer to build than others, and protracted USNRC licensing proceedings is only one. Increasing opposition to nuclear power in this country led to contested proceedings at nearly every step of the permitting process.

Poor management of the construction process contributed to delays in completion, and at least one utility slowed construction activity because of its financial limitations. In the United States, nuclear plant construction costs have been much too high for any operator to consider a nuclear plant as a viable option for new generation.

The industry and DOE have worked together since FY to develop ALWR designs that would be easier to build and cheaper to operate, based on greatly reducing the amount of piping, valves, pumps, and cables required. Probabilistic risk analysis PRA also indicated these reactors would be safer to operate. One design, Westinghouse''s AP, is of a class labeled "passively safe," not requiring active systems, such as pumps, to cool down the reactor in case of an accident.

The AP is expected to receive design certification in NE''s thinking about this institute is in a formative stage. The Panel commends NE for recognizing the importance of reaching out to the research community to tap its ideas, but the Panel believes that the recommendation for a new initiative, described later in this chapter, has a greater probability of producing useful results.

Safety An operating nuclear reactor has a large amount of radioactive material in its core and sufficient stored energy to disperse that material over a wide area, as catastrophically demonstrated by the Chernobyl accident in In the United States, although the accident at Three Mile Island did not release any significant amount of radiation, it greatly alarmed the local population and reinforced fears of dangers associated with nuclear power.

Nuclear Energy: Fission and Fusion | Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Concerns about safety remain an obstacle to the acceptability of nuclear power. However, there have been no nuclear power accidents in the United States leading to radiation-related, off-site health effects. To overcome the diverse obstacles blocking fission''s acceptability, the Panel believes that it is time for a fundamental change in management approach. This program has attracted numerous researchers from universities, laboratories, and industry who bring new approaches and ideas to solve the problems associated with cleaning up weapons production sites.

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Projects proposed by universities, national laboratories, and industry would be selected competitively, and partnerships would be encouraged. Topics would include, but not be limited to, the following: proliferation-resistant reactors or fuel cycles; new reactor designs with higher efficiency, lower cost, and improved safety to compete in the global market; low-power units for use in developing countries; and new techniques for on-site and surface storage and for permanent disposal of nuclear waste.

In defining the program, it is important not to be too specific and to allow the prospective performers maximum latitude to propose potentially promising studies or projects. Funds should be awarded after a two-stage evaluation: first a peer review to judge scientific and technical quality, and second-only for those proposals judged to be of the highest merit-a review to assess the relevance to the missions of DOE. This budget would support a sufficient number of competitively selected investigators, students, and specialized facilities at universities, national laboratories, and industry to generate the needed new ideas and maintain an adequate human resource base.

The objective of DOE''s fusion energy sciences program is to develop the scientific and technological basis for fusion as a long-term energy option for the United States and the world. Results and techniques from fusion plasma science have had fundamental and pervasive impact for many other scientific fields, and they have made substantial contributions to industry and manufacturing.

Since , fusion power achieved in experiments has increased from less than 0. Recent experiments are approaching the breakeven threshold, where the amount of fusion power produced exceeds the power used to heat and confine the plasma. The nation''s fusion energy research program has received three major reviews since , the most comprehensive being the study by the PCAST Panel on the U. In FY , Congress reduced the fusion budget by about one-third and directed DOE to restructure its fusion energy program. DOE based the restructuring on the advice of its Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee FESAC , 16 which formulated a new mission: "To advance plasma science, fusion science and fusion technology-the knowledge base needed for an economically and environmentally attractive fusion energy source.

At this point, Europe, Russia, and Japan collectively are investing about five times the U. DOE''s fusion energy sciences FES program has been restructured over the past 2 years in a manner consistent with the PCAST principles, to the degree that this was feasible given the lower budget, though with considerable sacrifice of worthwhile efforts.

In the view of the Panel, this funding level is too low.

It allows no significant U. The low funding level also has limited the resources available to conduct research on alternative fusion concepts. Two particular topics warrant additional comment at this time: ITER and the pursuit of innovative paths to a fusion energy system, specifically inertial fusion energy IFE. International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor International implementation of a burning plasma experiment is a centerpiece of the U. ITER is a well-developed concept to accomplish this technical goal, along with other goals that have been agreed to internationally.

ITER will complete its Engineering Design Activity EDA phase in July , culminating a worldwide effort to conceive and design an experimental device to advance the development of fusion power and fusion science. The decision on whether to proceed to construction of ITER will be made internationally and it should be made with U. Such participation leverages U. During this phase, activities will focus on testing prototypes built during the EDA; on making the design site- and country-specific for realistic locations being considered in Japan, Europe, and possibly elsewhere; on resolving licensing issues; and on pursuing value engineering and design modifications that would reduce cost without compromising performance goals.

The parties to ITER need to address targeted issues during this period.

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In addition, the U. It would be desirable to make funds available to expand alternative-concepts research, consistent with the restructuring of the FES program initiated in FY It would also be helpful to all parties in the ITER enterprise, if at least one of the parties would express, within the next year or two, its intention to offer a specific site for ITER construction by the end of the 3-year period. A substantial share is expected to be borne by the host party. The Panel also recognizes that any significant cost reduction would mean that only a subset of ITER''s present mission might be fulfilled.

Yet, a more modestly priced ITER focused on the key next-step scientific issue of burning plasma physics may make it easier for all parties to come to agreement. The Panel respects the desires of all parties, understands that the parties must resolve this issue together, and urges them to do so and to examine the prospects for a reduced-cost device. If, however, any of the parties states its intention to offer a site for ITER in the next year or two, the U.

In particular, at the time the parties agree to move forward on ITER construction now scheduled for 3 years from now , the United States should be prepared to determine, with stakeholder input, what the level and nature of its involvement should be. If no party offers to host ITER in the next 3 years, it is nonetheless vital to continue without delay the international pursuit of fusion energy via a more modestly scaled and priced device aimed at a mutually agreed set of scientific objectives. A modified experiment is better than no next international step toward practical fusion.

In any case, the United States should continue to participate as a partner and leader in the evolving international program. Inertial Fusion Energy The Panel endorses DOE''s new emphasis on diverse scientific and technological approaches to the fusion energy goal. In this context, IFE-in which ion or laser beams rather than magnetic fields are used both to confine and to heat the plasma-represents one alternative line of research.

The Panel recommends closer communication and collaboration between DP and ER to establish an effective funding and decision-making process for IFE, which leverages the substantial ongoing DP investment in the coming years. Summary of Funding Recommendations. Global Policy Context Nuclear power is a global issue: Major power plant accidents have global consequences, and the proliferation potential of nuclear weapons has major ramifications for global stability and security.

Therefore, to be able to motivate or influence other nations'' nuclear energy choices, such as those related to fuel cycles, regulation, and nuclear safeguards, the United States must maintain a credible presence as a leader in the international nuclear arena. The United States must retain its technical competence, its human resource base, and its engagement in the world nuclear community, particularly regarding positions on policy issues.

Continued U. Deregulation of the Electric Power Industry. Continued operation of and license extension for current U. With the approach of deregulation in the electric utility sector, economic considerations by plant owners are likely to lead to early shutdown of those plants that are not cost-competitive at today''s U. Deregulation is occurring more rapidly than many people had originally thought. In a competitive market, where customers can buy power from the least-cost provider, nuclear plants generally will be at a disadvantage for their current owners.

Nuclear power has low operating costs, but high life-cycle costs, because of the large capital costs associated with construction, major component replacement, and upgrade. An additional problem faced by nuclear plant operators is that, although a coal plant can be mothballed for a few hundred thousand dollars per year, the staffing levels required to ensure fuel safety and plant security make not running a nuclear plant far more expensive. Md Mizanur Rahman. Lyman R. Petr G. Gabriela A.

Daniel Schwekendiek.