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Nuclear Energy The Future and Needed Research and Development


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Title: Nuclear Energy The Future and Needed Research and Development

Nuclear Energy The Future and Needed Research
and Development
  • Wichita State University Physics Colloquium on
    Energy Physics
  • October 28, 2009
  • W. Mark Nutt
  • Senior Nuclear Engineer
  • Group Lead Waste Management Systems Analysis
  • Nuclear Engineering Division
  • Argonne National Laboratory

Work sponsored by U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Nuclear Energy, Science Technology
  • Introduction
  • Nuclear Power 101
  • Role of Nuclear Power in a Sustainable Energy
  • Nuclear Fuel Cycle Options and Advanced Concepts
  • Nuclear Energy and Advanced Fuel Cycles
    Research Needs

  • Nuclear physics was discovered in the late
    1800s and advanced through the mid 1900s
  • Necessary to acknowledge the role of basic
    physics played that resulted in nuclear energy
  • Rutherford, Chadwick, Geiger, the Curies,
    Einstein, Fermi, and many others
  • Nuclear energy RD has transitioned from
    discovery to more of applied or engineering
    however, the basic sciences still play a very
    important role
  • The physics discoveries made today will lead to
    future technologies
  • And the physics colloquium talks 100 years from

Nuclear Power 101
Nuclear Power 101
In a nuclear reactor, the chain reaction occurs
within uranium fuel pellets sleeved in metal
tubes. These fuel rods are bundled together into
fuel assemblies and arranged to form the
reactor core.
Nuclear Power 101
  • Control rods made of neutron absorbing material
    are inserted in the reactor core to control the
    chain reaction
  • Withdrawing CR increases the chain reaction
    inserting the rods reduces the chain reaction
  • Water flowing over the assemblies of fuel rods
    carries away the heat from fission reactions
  • This heat generates steam used to power a turbine
    generator and make electricity

Note The fuel cladding, steel pressure vessel,
steel containment shell, and reinforced concrete
containment structure provide multiple layers of
defense against accidental radiation release
Nuclear Power 101 (Actually, 301 or better yet
501, 601, .)
  • Neutron Transport Equation How a Reactor Works

Role of Nuclear Power in a Sustainable Energy
Energy System Challenges Future Demand
2100 40-50 TW 2050 25-30 TW
Energy Gap 14 TW by 2050 33 TW by 2100
10 TW 10,000 1 GW power plants 1 new power
plant/day for 27 years
Energy System Challenges Environmental Impacts
A Sustainable Energy System
  • There is no single solution to the complex set of
    issues facing the energy system.
  • The serious issues we face require attention from
    everyone policymakers, scientists and
    engineers, energy industry, and the public.
  • The requirements are a diverse set of energy
    sources coupled with more efficient homes,
    buildings, and vehicles and energy conservation.

These solutions require parallel development of
new energy technologies
Nuclear Share of Electricity Generation (2004)
7 Westar Energy, 50 Illinois, 70 Chicagoland
Planned Expansion of Nuclear Power
We anticipate expanded use of nuclear energy in
the US and worldwide
  • Extended lifetime and optimized operation of
    existing plants
  • Deployment by US industry of new plants
  • Closure of fuel cycle to improve waste management
  • Strengthened international safeguards regime
  • Sustainable generation of electricity, hydrogen
    and other energy products

U.S. Technology Development for Fuel Cycle
ClosureWhy and Why NOW
  • There is a rapidly expanding global demand for
    nuclear power
  • Without some global regime to manage this
    expansion many more Iranian situations will
    likely appear
  • A global regime is forming up with Russia,
    France, Japan and China having both the will and
    the means to participate
  • The United States, through GNEP, envisioned a
    specific global regime model, but we must
    persevere to truly impact its execution
  • Unless the United States implements the domestic
    aspects of fuel cycle technology we will suffer
    significant consequences in our energy security,
    industrial competitiveness and national security
  • The United States must act decisively and quickly
    to implement new energy technology and fuel cycle
    approach or face the real possibility of having
    no influence over the future global expansion of
    nuclear energy
  • There are potential repository benefits for
    domestic application, but the international need
    for a secure fuel cycle paradigm is compelling.

Nuclear Fuel Cycles and Advanced Concepts
Once Through Nuclear Fuel Cycle
  • The U.S. and most other countries utilize a Once
    Through Nuclear Fuel Cycle
  • Current LWR once-through fuel cycle uses lt 1 of
    the energy value of the uranium
  • Even for domestic generation alone, a lot of LWR
    spent fuel will be generated if nuclear power is

Closed Nuclear Fuel Cycles
  • Some countries (France, Japan) utilize limited
  • Most are pursuing continuous recycle alternatives
    (25-50 years future)

Without Enriched Uranium
Enriched Uranium
Generations of Nuclear Reactors
Generation IV
Generation III
Generation III
Generation II
Future Generation Designs
Evolutionary Designs
Advanced LWRs
Commercial Power Reactors
Technology Goals
  • Safe
  • Sustainable
  • Economical
  • Proliferation Resistant
  • Physically secure
  • AP1000
  • ACR
  • ABWR
  • EPR
  • System 80
  • PWR, BWR
  • AGR

Gen I
Gen II
Gen IV
Generation IV Reactor Systems
Generation IV Reactor Systems
Examples of Generation IV Reactor Systems
Pool type SFR
Very High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor (VHTR)
Sodium Cooled Fast Reactor (SFR)
Advanced Aqueous Recycling
  • UREX Separation of U and Tc from spentfuel
  • UREX Separation of U, Tc, I, Pu/Np, Cs/Sr and
    Am/Cm from spent fuel
  • TRUEX Separation of transuranicsfrom spent
  • CSSX Separation of Cs and Sr removalfrom tank

Advanced Pyrochemical Recycling
  • Technologies developed include electrolytic
    reduction uraniumelectrorefining, liquid
    cadmium cathode, U/TRU electrolysis,
    pyro-contactors, and pressureless
  • Demonstrated on EBR-II spent nuclear fuel

Advanced Nuclear Fuel Cycle - Waste Management
  • Waste management is an important factor in
    developing and implementing an advanced closed
    nuclear fuel cycle
  • The waste management system is broader than
    disposal (processing, storage, transportation,
  • Deep geologic disposal will still be required
  • Disposal of low level and intermediate level
    (GTCC) wastes will be required
  • Volumes potentially larger than once-through
  • An advanced closed nuclear fuel cycle would allow
    for a re-optimization of the back-end of the
    current once-through fuel cycle, taking advantage
  • Minor actinide separation/transmutation
  • Heat producing fission product (Cs/Sr) management
    (i.e., decay storage)
  • Decisions must consider this entire system
  • Regulatory, economic, risk/safety, environmental,
    other considerations

Nuclear Energy and Advanced Fuel Cycles -
Research Needs
Nuclear Energy RD Overview
Technology Maturation Deployment
Applied Research
Discovery Research Use-inspired Basic
  • Basic research for fundamental new understanding
    (i.e., science grand challenges) on materials or
    systems that may be only peripherally connected
    or even unconnected to todays problems in energy
  • Development of new tools, techniques, and
    facilities, including those for advanced modeling
    and computation
  • Basic research for fundamental new understanding,
    with the goal of addressing short-term
    showstoppers on real-world applications in the
    energy technologies
  • Research with the goal of meeting technical
    milestones, with emphasis on the development,
    performance, cost reduction, and durability of
    materials and components or on efficient
  • Proof of technology concepts
  • Scale-up research
  • At-scale demonstration
  • Cost reduction
  • Prototyping
  • Manufacturing RD
  • Deployment support

Office of Science BES
Applied Energy Offices EERE, NE, FE, TD, EM, RW,
Goal new knowledge / understanding Mandate
open-ended Focus phenomena Metric knowledge
Goal practical targets Mandate restricted to
target Focus performance Metric milestone
Nuclear Energy RD Overview
  • Basic Research Needs to Assure a Secure Energy
  • BESAC Workshop, October 21-25, 2002
  • The foundation workshop that set the model for
    the focused workshops that follow.
  • Basic Research Needs for the Hydrogen Economy
  • BES Workshop, May 13-15, 2003
  • Nanoscience Research for Energy Needs
  • BES and the National Nanotechnology Initiative,
  • March 16-18, 2004
  • Basic Research Needs for Solar Energy Utilization
  • BES Workshop, April 18-21, 2005
  • Advanced Computational Materials Science
    Application to Fusion and Generation IV Fission
  • BES, ASCR, FES, and NE Workshop, March 31-April
    2, 2004
  • The Path to Sustainable Nuclear Energy Basic
    and Applied Research Opportunities for Advanced
    Fuel Cycles
  • BES, NP, and ASCR Workshop, September 2005

Nuclear Energy RD
BES Workshop Basic Research Needs for Advanced
Nuclear Energy Systems
  • Highlighted Areas focused on new, emerging, and
    scientifically challenging areas with potential
    for significant impact on the effective
    utilization of nuclear energy
  • Materials under extreme conditions
  • Chemistry under extreme conditions
  • Separations science
  • Advanced actinide fuels, including inert matrix
  • Actinide-containing waste forms
  • Predictive modeling and simulation advanced
    materials, systems, and processes
  • Crosscutting and grand challenge science themes

Nuclear Energy RD
BES Workshop Basic Research Needs for Advanced
Nuclear Energy Systems Scientific Grand
  • Resolving the f-Electron Challenge to Master the
    Chemistry and Physics of Actinides and
    Actinide-Bearing Materials
  • The scientific grand challenge is to develop a
    robust theoretical foundation for the treatment
    of actinides and actinide-containing systems
  • Developing a First-Principles, Multiscale
    Description of Material Properties in Complex
    Materials Under Extreme Conditions
  • The scientific grand challenge is to develop an
    unified, predictive multiscale theory that
    couples all relevant time and length scales in
    microstructure evolution and phase stability
  • Understanding and Designing New Molecular Systems
    to Gain Unprecedented Control of Chemical
    Selectivity During Processing
  • The scientific grand challenge is to create new
    separation agents that are endowed not only with
    unprecedented capabilities to perform separations
    but also with the abilities to survive and even
    thrive under intense radiation and other extreme

Nuclear Energy RD
BES Workshop Basic Research Needs for Advanced
Nuclear Energy Systems Priority Research
  • Nanoscale Design of Materials and Interfaces that
    Radically Extend Performance Limits in Extreme
    Radiation Environments
  • Physics and Chemistry of Actinide-Bearing
    Materials and the f-Electron Challenge
  • Microstructure and Property Stability under
    Extreme Conditions
  • Mastering Actinide and Fission Product Chemistry
    under All Chemical Conditions
  • Exploiting Organization to Achieve Selectivity at
    Multiple Length Scales
  • Adaptive Material-Environment Interfaces for
    Extreme Chemical Conditions
  • Fundamental Effects of Radiation and Radiolysis
    in Chemical Processes
  • Fundamental Thermodynamic and Kinetic Processes
    in Complex Multi-Component Systems for Fuel
    Fabrication and Performance
  • Predictive Multiscale Modeling of Materials and
    Chemical Phenomena in Multi-Component Systems
    under Extreme Conditions

Nuclear Energy RD
BES Workshop Basic Research Needs for Advanced
Nuclear Energy Systems Crosscutting Research
  • Tailored Nanostructures for Radiation-Resistant
    Functional and Structural Materials
  • Solution and Solid State Chemistry of 4f- and 5f-
    Electron Systems
  • Physics and Chemistry at Interfaces and in
    Confined Environments
  • Physical and Chemical Complexity in
    Multi-Component Systems
  • Also Underpinning Themes
  • Strongly coupled experimental and computational
  • Real-time experiments and enabling analytical
  • Reinvigoration of the nuclear science and
    technology expertise in the United States
  • Establishing new paradigms for handling
    radioactive materials in research
  • Maintaining an eye to non-proliferation

Nuclear Energy RD
BES Workshop Basic Research Needs for Advanced
Nuclear Energy Systems
RD on Innovative Fast Reactor Technologies
  • Renewed focus of RD work on long-term
  • Advanced Modeling and Simulation
  • Improved nuclear data
  • System performance and eventually design
  • Advanced Materials
  • Compact configurations and reduced commodities
  • Improved reliability
  • Advanced Energy Conversion Systems
  • High efficiency alternatives (e.g., CO2 or gas
  • Compact design and/or improved reliability
  • Safety Research
  • Emphasis on prevention of severe accidents
  • Development of licensing approach and framework
    for fast reactors

RD Needs for Sodium Cooled Fast Reactor
  • Primary Issues that may Inhibit SFR Introduction
  • Perception of higher capital costs
  • Unique concerns related to liquid metal coolant
  • Innovative Design Features for Cost Reduction
  • Configuration simplifications
  • Improved inspection and maintenance equipment
  • Advanced energy conversion systems
  • Advanced structural materials
  • Reactor Safety Demonstration
  • Assurance of passive safety behavior
  • Licensing consideration of severe accidents
  • Closed Fuel Cycle Demonstration
  • Fuel behavior
  • Remote fabrication of recycle fuels
  • Low loss rates in separations and recycle fuel

Examples of Innovative Fast ReactorTechnologies
and Design Features
  • The Following Innovative Technologies and Design
    Features are being Evaluated for Inclusion in an
    advanced SFR
  • Metal Fuel
  • Inherent Passive Safety
  • Single rotatable plug with pantograph fuel
    handling machine
  • Seismic Isolation System
  • Electromagnetic primary pump
  • Supercritical CO2 Brayton Cycle
  • Pyroprocessing
  • Favorable Passive Behavior for Off-Normal
  • Benign response to severe accidents such as
    unprotected loss of flow, loss of heat sink, and
    transient overpower

RD Needs For Aqueous Separations
  • Improved Dissolution Methods to Limit Residue
  • Recovery of iodine from off-gas
  • Simplified Process for Solvent Extraction of
  • Very high recovery for all elements
  • Improvements in separation of lanthanides at high
  • Refinement of Product Conversion
  • Solidification of uranium, transuranic, Cs/Sr,
    and Tc product streams
  • Plant and Process Design Innovations
  • Optimized configurations
  • Operator training response to upset conditions
  • Process and safeguards instrumentation
    (proliferation resistance)
  • Advanced analytical methods for rapid
    quantitative analysis
  • Detection of materials diversion

RD Needs for Pyrochemical Processing
  • Simulation of electrochemical systems, including
    actinide elements in molten salt media
  • Improved thermodynamic properties data for
    transuranics halides and lanthanide elements for
    process optimization
  • Innovative designs to improve performance
  • Transuranics recovery from salt by electrolysis
  • Continuous recovery of uranium and transuranics
  • Other innovative process improvements
  • Efficient method for electrolyte salt cleanup and
  • Increased removal efficiency of lanthanide
    fission products
  • Increased decontamination of the uranium product

RD Needs for Fuels
  • Fuel is a fundamental part of the reactor and
    is the first line of defense
  • Fuel types include inert matrix, metal, oxide,
    and nitride and RD needs vary according to type
    also, whether fuel used in a thermal or fast
    reactor will lead to some variation in required
  • In general, RD needs include
  • Fuel fabrication technologies, in particular,
  • Thermodynamic, thermal, and mechanical properties
  • High transuranic fuel performance, e.g., Am
    volatility, thermal conductivity, increase in He
  • Fuel/cladding interactions, in particular, fuels
    with higher transuranic content
  • Irradiation performance, in particular, nitride
  • Safety-related performance e.g., failure
    thresholds and consequences
  • Fuel qualification and licensing and validation
    of fuel performance codes

RD Needs For Waste Form Development
  • Waste Form Production
  • Iodine waste form
  • Technetium waste form
  • Cladding hulls
  • Cesium/strontium storage form
  • Physical form, purity (non-TRU)
  • Storage methods (for 300-year decay period)
  • Transuranic storage forms
  • Interim storage may be required to allow for
    readiness of fuel fabrication methods or
    transmutation capability
  • Residual fission products waste form

- High-level waste, for geologic repository
A Science-Based Engineering Approach to
Understanding Waste Form and Repository
  • An integrated science and technology program to
    provide technical options systems analyses,
    experiments, modeling and simulation
  • Identify the controlling mechanisms and processes
    for different waste form materials in a range of
    geochemical environments at different spatial and
    temporal scales
  • Applied in a general manner to provide a
    scientifically-defensible basis for waste form
    development, qualification, and future repository
    system analyses

A Science-Based Engineering Approach to
Understanding Waste Form and Repository
Performance (cont.)
  • Future Directions
  • Development of advanced, more durable, tailored
    waste forms
  • Development of advanced geologic disposal
    concepts in a range of geologic settings and
    geochemical environments
  • Enhanced understanding of geologic repository
  • Systems optimization of repository designs
  • Systems-level optimization of advanced fuel

Back Up
Very High Temperature Reactor (VHTR)
  • High Temperature Applications
  • Direct gas Brayton cycle
  • System Configuration
  • TRISO fuel particles
  • Low Power Density
  • Prismatic or Pebble Bed

Sodium-Cooled Fast Reactor (SFR)
  • Fuel Cycle Applications
  • Actinide Management
  • System Configuration
  • Metal Alloy or Oxide Fuel
  • Pool or Loop Configuration
  • High Power Density

Fast Reactor Experience
  • U.S. Experience
  • First usable nuclear electricity was generated by
    a fast reactor EBR-I in 1951
  • EBR-II (20 MWe) was operated at Idaho site from
    1963 to 1994
  • Closed fuel cycle demo
  • Passive safety tests
  • Fast Flux Test Facility (400 MWt) operated from
    1980 to 1992
  • International Experience
  • BN-600 power reactor since 1980 at 75 capacity
  • Operating test reactors PHENIX (France), BOR-60
    (Russia), JOYO (Japan)
  • Most recent construction was MONJU (280 MWe) in

Sodium-cooled fast reactor technology has been
Potential Benefits of Closed Fuel CycleWaste
  • With the processing of spent fuel to remove the
    elements responsible for the decay heat that
    cause temperature limits to be reached, large
    gains in utilization of repository space are
  • Only considers thermal performance, not dose rate
  • Pu, Am, Cs, Sr, Cm are the dominant elements
  • The recovered elements must be treated
  • Recycling of Pu, Am, Cm for transmutation
    and/or fission
  • Irradiation in reactors

Potential Benefits of Closed Fuel CycleUranium
Supply and Economics
  • A closed fuel cycle can effectively multiply
    uranium resources by several factors of 10
  • Current known uranium resources are sufficient
    for nuclear energy production for several
    decades, but there are other considerations
  • Energy independence is a factor because much of
    the uranium resources are non-U.S.
  • The additional costs of a closed fuel cycle are
    high enough that uranium supply and demand cannot
    be the sole economic driver for a closed fuel
  • This will be the case for several decades the
    tipping point could be as soon as 2050.

Proliferation is a Concern for Nuclear Fuel Cycle
  • Few countries operate full suite of front- and
    back-end fuel cycle facilities
  • Mining, conversion, enrichment, fabrication,
    storage, reprocessing, disposal
  • Commercial enrichment facilities operated in
    United States, France, Russia, United Kingdom,
    Netherlands, Germany, Japan, China, and Pakistan
  • Gas centrifuges (and gaseous diffusion) are
    mostly used for enrichment, with research on
    advanced systems based on laser isotope
  • Recently, surplus weapons materials (highly
    enriched uranium) diluted for making low
    enriched uranium materials for operating
  • Commercial spent fuel separation facilities
    operational in few countries
  • E.g., France, Britain, Russia, and Japan
  • Facilities are employed for plutonium separation
    for making MOX fuels
  • Advanced fuel cycle strategies and technologies
    planned to safeguard facilities and prevent
    spread of material and technologies, thus,
    strengthennon-proliferation regime

Nuclear Fuel Cycle
Source World Nuclear Organization
Fast and Thermal Reactor Energy Spectra
  • In LWR, most fissions occur in the 0.1 eV thermal
  • In SFR, moderation is avoided no thermal

Fuel Cycle Implications
  • The physics distinctions facilitate different
    fuel cycle strategies
  • Thermal reactors are typically configured for
    once-through (open) fuel cycle
  • They can operate on low enriched uranium (LEU)
  • They require an external fissile feed (neutron
  • Higher actinides must be managed to allow recycle
  • Separation of higher elements still a disposal
  • Extended cooling time for curium decay
  • Fast reactors are typically intended for closed
    fuel cycle with uranium conversion and resource
  • Higher actinide generation is suppressed
  • Neutron balance is favorable for recycled TRU
  • No external fissile material is required
  • Can enhance U-238 conversion for traditional
  • Can limit U-238 conversion for burning

Fast Spectrum Physics Distinctions
  • Combination of increased fission/absorption and
    increased number of neutrons/fission yields more
    excess neutrons from Pu-239
  • Enables breeding of fissile material
  • In a fast spectrum, U-238 capture is more
  • Higher enrichment (TRU/HM) is required (next
  • Enhances internal conversion
  • Reduced parasitic capture and improved neutron
  • Allows the use of conventional stainless steel
  • Slow loss of reactivity with burnup
  • Less fission product capture and more internal
  • The lower absorption cross section of all
    materials leads to a much longer neutron
    diffusion length (10-20 cm, as compared to 2 cm
    in LWR)
  • Neutron leakage is increased (gt20 in typical
  • Reflector effects are more important
  • Heterogeneity effects are relatively unimportant

Impact of Energy Spectrumon Enrichment and
Depletion Behavior
  • Generation-IV fast systems have similar
  • One-group XS are significantly reduced in fast
  • However, U-238 capture is much more prominent
    (low P239f/U238c)
  • A much higher enrichment is required to achieve
  • The parasitic capture cross section of fission
    products and conventional structures is much
    higher in a thermal spectrum (next viewgraph)

Neutron Balance
  • Conversion ratio defined as ratio of TRU
    production/TRU destruction
  • Slightly different than traditional breeding
    ratio with fissile focus

Safety Implications of Fast Reactor Design
  • Superior thermophysical properties of liquid
    metals allow
  • Operation at high power density and high fuel
    volume fraction
  • Low pressure operation with significant margin to
  • The fast neutron spectrum leads to long neutron
    path lengths
  • Neutron leakage is enhanced, 25 at moderate
  • Reactivity effect impacts the reactor as a whole,
    not locally
  • High leakage fraction implies that the fast
    reactor reactivity is sensitive to minor
    geometric changes
  • As temperature increases and materials expand, a
    net negative reactivity feedback is inherently
  • Favorable inherent feedback in sodium-cooled fast
    reactors (SFR) have been demonstrated
  • EBR-2 and FFTF tests for double fault accidents
  • Safety codes developed and validated to model the
    coupled physics, thermal, structural reactivity
    feedback effects