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Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program: Wikis

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The Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program is a U.S. government research and development program. It is directed by the Department of Energy and is aimed at performing research and compiling data necessary to qualify for licenses to extend the life of America's current 104 electricity generating nuclear power plants beyond 60 years of life. Practically all of the commercial electric-generating nuclear power plants currently in the United States are light water reactor (LWR) plants, meaning they use light water as a moderator and coolant simultaneously.

The basis for the project is founded on the facts that in the near future:

This graph illustrates the potential rise in CO2 emissions if base-load electricity currently produced by nuclear power were replaced by Coal or Natural Gas as current reactors go offline after their 60 year licenses expire. Note: graph assumes all 104 nuclear power plants in the United States receive license extensions out to 60 years.

During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama stated, "Nuclear power represents more than 70 percent of our noncarbon generated electricity. It is unlikely that we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we eliminate nuclear power as an option." [1] The program operates on the premise that electricity from nuclear generating stations, as a zero-carbon source, can and must play a critical role as part of an overall solution to both of these needs. The program focuses on four main areas: Nuclear Materials Aging and Degradation, Advanced Nuclear Fuel, Advanced Instrumentation and Control Systems, and finally, Safety Margin Characterization.

Contents

Projected Increase in Demand

According to several studies, demand for electricity in the U.S. will grow in coming years. According to one study, [2] demand will increase by 30-40 percent by the year 2030.

Goals to lower carbon dioxide emissions

President Obama made clear the U.S.'s national stance on carbon dioxide emissions on the White House's website which stated, "We must take immediate action to reduce the carbon pollution that threatens our climate and sustains our dependence on fossil fuels." [3]

Where it is happening

Idaho National Laboratory (INL) near Idaho Falls, Idaho is the primary research facility involved.
Other labs and universities across the country are involved in specific parts of the research (see below).

Who is involved

Program Goals

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Nuclear Materials Aging and Degradation

In simpler terms, this means that scientists will research materials currently used in nuclear plants. INL scientists will help perform intensive studies to evaluate the structures and materials that nuclear plants are built out of and how they age. Everything from the concrete containment structures, steel vessels, cables, and piping will be analyzed. The most immediate focus will be on irradiation-assisted stress-corrosion cracking in plant components such as the reactor pressure vessel.

Advanced Nuclear Fuels

Conventional nuclear fuel pellet

Research of advanced nuclear fuels has the goal of increasing the amount of energy that can be extracted from the same amount of fuel by bettering the material that "clads" or coats the fuel pellets, and by creating innovative new designs for the fuel rods themselves. For example, one idea that is being considered is fuel rods that are actually not rods, but rather small tubes. The idea would increase the surface area of the fuel element that would conduct heat (energy) to the surrounding water, which is light water used to carry away heat generated by nuclear fission in the fuel elements. This type of research is supported by other groups internal to INL, such as the Multiphysics Methods Group.
Developments like this and researching more resilient cladding materials would allow current plants to "uprate" to higher electricity outputs and/or increase their safety levels. Essentially, researching advanced nuclear fuels will provide important options to utilities and individual plants.

Advanced Instrumentation and Control Systems

Advanced Instrumentation and Control Systems would centralize and digitize nuclear power plant control rooms. Use of this technology would allow for operators and control room staff to know even better what is happening at all times in the plant as well as respond to situation changes. Attention will also be given to the human side of plant management.

Safety Margin Characterization

Researchers will use computer models to analyze plant safety using a "risk-informed safety margin characterization" techniques. This will involve using computer programs that can simulate probabilistic failure of different components of a nuclear plant to analyze what effects one or multiple failures would have on plant operations. Utilizing this knowledge, decision makers will be able to better design maintenance programs and better train operators. This knowledge will also be useful in designing future plants.

References

  1. ^ http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/factsheet_energy_speech_080308.pdf
  2. ^ U.S. Energy Information Administration, “International Energy Outlook 2007,” Energy Information Administration, Office of Integrated Analysis and Forecasting, U.S. Department of Energy Washington, D.C., May 2007.
  3. ^ http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/energy_and_environment/

See also

External links


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