Nuclear Energy for Peaceful Purposes
In recent years, the climate on Earth has changed noticeably, the levels of the oceans are rising, and glaciers have been melting. Extreme weather conditions are becoming more intense and frequent.
Uzbekistan is among those countries most vulnerable to climate change. The growth in average annual air temperatures in the nation is observed against the backdrop of natural variability, which causes significant fluctuations. The rate of warming in the republic exceeds the average observed one on the global scale by 40%.
In the meantime, hydrocarbon fuels, including natural gas, oil and coal, will remain important in the next 20 years, indicating that the improvement of traditional energy technologies will continue to be one of the priority directions in the innovative development of world energy.
One of the most pressing issues currently widely discussed in many countries of the world is the identification of longterm prospects for technological evolution in the energy sector. Particular interest to it began to emerge in recent years due to the decline in world reserves of hydrocarbon fuels, the growing needs of developing countries in energy resources, as well as the increasing impact of energy on the environment.
According to estimates of the International Energy Agency, the growth in the total consumption of primary energy resources in the world by 2030 will be about 54% compared with 2010 figures. And the leaders in energy consumption growth will be dynamically developing nations.
Gas producing countries seek to make greater use of this environmentally friendly fuel visà-vis oil and coal. For example, in 2014, the share of gaseous fuel in the structure of the national energy balance in Uzbekistan was 86%, in Turkmenistan it was 80%, in Algeria – 65%, Azerbaijan – 63%, Russia – 54%, Argentina – 49%, for Iran and Qatar the figure was 61% and 80%, respectively.
The countries that produce coal also actively use it for their energy needs. Thus, in the expenditure part of China’s energy balance, this power source accounts for about 66%, in South Africa the figure is 71%, in Kazakhstan – 64%, India – 56%, Australia – 36%, Indonesia – 35%.
In the energy generation industry of some countries, the leading role belongs to the one of water. For example, in 2014, the share of large hydropower plants in Norway accounted for 66% of total energy consumption, in Brazil and Sweden it was 28%, in Canada and Colombia – 26%.
Atomic energy continues to be the basis of the energy complex. Thus, in France, this type of energy accounts for more than 40% of total power consumption, in Sweden – 29%, Switzerland – 22 %, Finland – 21%, Bulgaria – 20%. At the end of 2015, a total of 438 nuclear power plant units with a total installed capacity of 375.9 GW were operating in the world, with capacities growing further and another 70 units being built in 15 countries.
In recent years, the production of electricity at nuclear power stations began to grow: in 2012 it was 559 million tons of oil equivalent, 574 million tons of oil equivalent was produced in 2014, which is associated with the development of technology and increased safety of nuclear reactors. In 2014, the United States occupied the leading positions in the number of operating reactors in the nuclear power industry, with 104 stations operating, while France and Russia had 58 and 33 such plants, respectively.
In the structure of primary fuel and energy resources (FER) in Uzbekistan, mono-dependence on natural gas remains high (exceeding 85%), while the rest is coal (3%), petroleum products (7%), and hydropower (5%).
Meanwhile, in accordance with various development scenarios, global energy consumption will increase by 1.2-1.6 times by 2050, the share of renewable energy sources in the structure of the global fuel and energy balance will be from 10% to 34%, the share of oil will decrease to 29% -16%, and the absolute decline in its consumption is possible, while gas consumption will increase, with continuing high uncertainty in the development of nuclear energy. Also, until 2030, there will be a direct link between the growth in the world population and the production of electricity.
An extremely important challenge to the global energy industry at the present stage of its development is the increasingly obvious fact of a shortage of energy resources in the near future. With the growth of the economy, there is a need to increase the demand for energy resources, which requires an expansion of primary fuel reserves, the search for their reserves and alternatives, the possibility of substitutions based on the conditions of economic expediency. Today, a number of different points of view are expressed regarding the future of world energy, sometimes diametrically diverging, but many agree in the long term concerning the priority of developing renewable energy sources (RES) and nuclear energy. In this regard, there has been a tendency of transition of energy based on the combustion of fossil fuels to the one based on the energy of alternative unconventional energy sources – RES as well as atomic energy.
This requires a revision of the issue of modernization of economic sectors in order to reduce production costs, as well as diversify the fuel and energy resources employed through the use of renewable energy sources and alternative fuels, and improve the quality of energy supply services.
In view of the above, the relevance of the development and implementation of alternative unconventional energy sources, one of which, along with renewable energy sources, is atomic energy, becomes obvious.
I would also like to note that the nuclear power industry plays a key role in ensuring the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement, signed by Uzbekistan on 19 April 2017, under which it was decided to take measures on the inadmissibility of a plus temperature change by more than 1.5 degrees.
Atomic energy is an environmentally friendly form of energy. When used in nuclear power plants to generate electrical and thermal power, compared to traditional forms of energy, no harmful substances such as oxides of nitrogen, sulfur, carbon and others are formed.
The introduction of atomic energy minimizes carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, which is the main component of greenhouse gases that affect climate change.
The main economic argument in favor of nuclear power is its ability to guarantee the price of electricity generated for the entire service life of a nuclear power plant (NPP), which is at least 60 years with the possibility of its extension.
In the global energy sector there is a steady increase in nuclear power and it is currently used in 31 countries of the world. At present, operating nuclear power plants produce 11% of all electricity. At the same time, along with France, in countries like Slovakia, Ukraine, Hungary and Belgium, atomic energy provides for more than 40% of the needs.
In our country, there is an acute need at the present time for the development of nuclear energy. This is due to the following circumstances. With the demand for electricity in Uzbekistan, which amounts to 69 billion kWh, about 64 billion is being produced. That is, there is a certain deficit. At the same time, it should be noted that about 85% of this energy is generated through the use of gas, fuel oil and coal, and 15% is produced at hydroelectric power plants. For this, 16.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas, 86 thousand tons of fuel oil and 2.3 million tons of coal are consumed annually. At the same time, according to the calculations of specialists and experts, the need for electricity in Uzbekistan by 2030 will reach 117 billion kWh due to the growth of the economy, population, as well as living standards. That is, the shortage of power will amount to 53 billion kWh.
For the production of the required amount of electricity natural gas will need to be used, which will be 54% of the total power generated. Coal will cover 11%, petroleum products – 3%, and also 14% should be produced by hydroelectric power plants, 3% – from renewable energy sources, and for the remaining 15%, additional power will be required that can be supplied by nuclear power plants.
To this end, Uzbekistan and Russia signed an intergovernmental agreement on 29 December 2017 on cooperation in the field of peaceful uses of atomic energy. It provides for the construction of a nuclear power plant on the basis of power units with 1,200 MW reactors. That is the latest power unit equipped with automation. The design of the reactor is a closed, sealed capsule, excluding the ingress of radioactive substances into the environment and not having runoff. Also provides with modern technology for waste disposal. At the same time, the reactor belongs to the 3+ generation and takes into account the safety requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the reliability of modern technologies.
The significant progress made by scientists in improving the safety of modern nuclear power plants should be noted. These reactors, the so-called new generation units, are distinguished from their predecessors by a high degree of reliability, ease of management owing to the full automation of the entire production cycle, the generation of environmentally friendly energy without adverse effects on the ecology and human health. It is planned to fully utilize this reactor until 2028.
The planned construction of a nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan will have a positive impact not only on the stable supply of electricity to the population of the republic, but also will allow for saving and channeling more than 100 billion cubic meters of natural gas to more urgent needs. As a result of its processing, petrochemical products with higher added value will be produced. And if the saved natural gas, even without processing, is sent for export, it will bring Uzbekistan income in the amount of 550-600 million US dollars a year. During the construction of the nuclear power plant, five thousand jobs will be created, and additional jobs will be required for 1.5 thousand specialists at the start-up stage.
Examination of the experience of foreign countries (France, Germany, S.Korea, USA, Lithuania, Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, among others) also showed that many nations have special laws that comprehensively regulate the use of atomic energy.
In addition, 84 states are currently parties to the 1994 Vienna Convention on Nuclear Safety, one of the main requirements of which is the creation of a national legal framework for the use of nuclear energy and ensuring safety in its operation.
On 10 July 2018, a meeting took place under the chairmanship of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on the construction and operation of nuclear power plants, at which the issue of the need to create a regulatory framework in a new area for our country, in particular, the development of the draft law “On the use of atomic energy in peaceful purposes” in accordance with the requirements of the IAEA, international standards and practices of the most advanced nations. And on July 19, 2018, the head of state signed the decree “On measures for the development of nuclear energy in the Republic of Uzbekistan”. The document provides for the creation of a special body regulating relations in the field of nuclear energy, the Uzatom agency.
At present, the development of a bill has begun, which will regulate relations arising from the peaceful uses of atomic energy. Legal foundations will be laid for the functioning of newly established institutions and systems for ensuring the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes.
It is planned to implement the most effective mechanisms to secure the safety of citizens in the use of atomic energy. The basic principles for carrying out activities on the use of atomic energy are planned to determine priorities for protecting life and health of citizens, safeguarding the environment before all other aspects of using atomic energy, providing for nuclear and radiation safety, preventing the production of nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices.
The mechanisms for commissioning and decommissioning or limiting the operational characteristics of a nuclear power plant are defined, and a fund for decommissioning an NPP is being created.
To protect citizens and shield the environment in the area of the NPP location, a sanitary safeguard zone and a surveillance precinct are established, and a special legal regime is established at the location of the facility.