Sometimes the wizards of the nuclear world are hidden from view, and when they have organized themselves on the remote, high desert of Idaho, it seems their work might be invisible. Some light was shed on the federal government's plans for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) at the September monthly dinner meeting of the Idaho Section of the American Nuclear Society held in Idaho Falls, ID.
Dr. Phillip Finck, Associate Laboratory Director, Nuclear Science & Technology, at the Idaho National Laboratory, spoke to a group of about 60 people. Finck is coordinating the work of 10 DOE national laboratory organizations to work together on GNEP. This blog post is a summary of his remarks written down in real time by your faithful correspondent.
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Finck said GNEP is needed to meet world energy demand and a sustainable nuclear fuel cycle is a key element. Additional issues are security threats to oil & gas supplies and the challenges of greenhouse gases increasing global warming.
Globally nuclear energy is expanding Finck said. GNEP will provide reliable nuclear fuel services while controlling the spread of plutonium. IAEA safeguards will be used to manage a global nuclear fuel bank providing reactor fuel to countries that do not have and do not build their own uranium enrichment plants.
In the U.S. industrial participation is needed in GNEP for fuel reprocessing facilities. The nation lacks the physical infrastructure to realize the GNEP vision. Eleven organizations have submitted 13 sites for GNEP facilities. Two are in Idaho. The DOE Secretary will make a decision in June 2008 on three types of GNEP facilities.
- Advanced burner reactors
- Consolidated fuel treatment center
- Advanced fuel cycle facility
Finck emphasized that GNEP is a closed fuel cycle because fuel recycling is more energy efficient. Only reprocessing losses are sent to a geologic repository which is a huge reduction from the current planned volume for Yucca Mountain. Under full implementation of GNEP, the capacity of Yucca Mountain would not be reached for several centuries. Removal of minor actinides reduces the time the waste is dangerous from 250,000 years to just 300 years.
Finck also called for much better nuclear fuel simulation models to reduce the time lines for nuclear fuel R&D.
The GNEP bottom line?
He said the INL has published a GNEP technology develoment plan (link below). In response to a question at the end of his talk, he said the bottom line is this.
What GNEP is asking the world to do is to get organized about the nuclear fuel cycle.
He noted that some of the material and slides for his presentation came from the GNEP Technology Development Plan - link (large PDF file).
World Nuclear Association nuclear statistics
There are now some 439 commercial nuclear power reactors operating in 30 countries, with 372,000 MWe of total capacity. Demand for nuclear power is increasing.
They supply 16% of the world's electricity, as base-load power, and their efficiency is increasing.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has significantly increased its projection of world nuclear generating capacity. It now anticipates at least 60 new plants in the next 15 years, making 430 GWe in place in 2020 - 130 GWe more than projected in 2000 and 16% more than actually operating in 2006. The change is based on specific plans and actions in a number of countries, including China, India, Russia, Finland and France, coupled with the changed outlook due to the Kyoto Protocol. This would give nuclear power a 17% share in electricity production in 2020. The fastest growth is in Asia.
Dr. Phillip Finck, Associate Laboratory Director - Nuclear Science & Technology, INL
Dr. Finck is an internationally recognized expert in advanced reactor and fuel cycle systems. He is noted for his technical leadership in reactor design and analysis, code development and validation, nuclear data, and more recently, in systems analysis. Prior to joining INL, he worked at Argonne National Laboratory, where he was the associate laboratory director for Applied Science and Technology. He received his doctorate in nuclear engineering at MIT in 1982, and earned an MBA from the University of Chicago. Dr. Finck is a Fellow in the American Nuclear Society.