Shap­ing the fu­ture of nu­clear power

The next gen­er­a­tion of in­no­va­tion in nu­clear power gen­er­a­tion tech­nol­ogy will not be like the last one

Utilities Middle East - - SPECIAL REPORT -

For most coun­tries, a suc­cess­ful en­ergy pol­icy is one that ful­fils the three pil­lars of sus­tain­abil­ity — se­cu­rity of sup­ply, en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and af­ford­abil­ity. In the rapidly evolv­ing elec­tric­ity mar­ket, the value of nu­clear power to the en­ergy mix will de­pend on its ca­pac­ity to meet cur­rent and fu­ture en­ergy needs — as re­flected by th­ese three pil­lars. It is ev­i­dent that meet­ing th­ese ex­pec­ta­tions will re­quire in­no­va­tion in nu­clear tech­nol­ogy.

Nu­clear power plants pro­vide re­li­able dis­patch­able power gen­er­a­tion that is trans­mit­ted as needed by elec­tric­ity grid op­er­a­tors day and night, all year around, and in all weather con­di­tions. More­over, nu­clear power plants are de­ploy­able on a large scale to meet the ex­pected in­crease in de­mand for car­bon­neu­tral elec­tric­ity.

It is likely that with the share of vari­able re­new­able en­ergy in­creas­ing sub­stan­tially, nu­clear gen­er­a­tion will need to be flex­i­ble be­yond its tra­di­tional baseload oper­a­tion mode. In­creased flex­i­bil­ity will im­ply a need for op­ti­mi­sa­tion and in­no­va­tion in ar­eas such as: re­ac­tor and fuel de­signs; en­hanced load-fol­low­ing ca­pac­ity of nu­clear re­ac­tors; the de­ploy­ment of small mod­u­lar re­ac­tors (SMRs); and the de­vel­op­ment of co-gen­er­a­tion strate­gies that can pro­vide ad­di­tional de­mand and rev­enue streams to plant op­er­a­tors.

While there is gen­eral con­sen­sus that nu­clear is a clean, low-car­bon tech­nol­ogy that can ad­dress en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns, its abil­ity to adapt to to­day’s very chal­leng­ing mar­ket con­di­tions is in ques­tion. Such mar­ket con­di­tions in­clude a de­crease in the costs of re­new­able en­ergy cou­pled with very favourable govern­ment poli­cies and sub­si­dies to­wards re­new­ables, as well as a grow­ing share of non-con­ven­tional sources of fos­sil fu­els such as shale gas with­out car­bon pric­ing in the mar­ket.

Be­cause elec­tric­ity mar­kets are not struc­tured to re­flect th­ese changes in tech­nol­ogy and pol­icy, th­ese fac­tors re­duce the prof­itabil­ity of many ex­ist­ing baseload elec­tric­ity plants, par­tic­u­larly nu­clear power plants. To be sus­tain­able, the elec­tric­ity mar­kets must be mod­ernised to en­sure long-term re­li­a­bil­ity; but what­ever path the fu­ture takes, nu­clear power’s fu­ture will re­quire in­no­va­tion to de­crease the over­all cost of gen­er­a­tion while main­tain­ing high lev­els of nu­clear safety.

While some in­no­va­tions that are tak­ing place out­side the in­dus­try will present chal­lenges to the process of de­sign­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of nu­clear re­ac­tors, oth­ers will present op­por­tu­ni­ties. Suc­cess will more likely come to those de­vel­op­ers of ad­vanced nu­clear tech­nolo­gies who can grasp the im­por­tant fac­tors that are shap­ing it.

The lat­est in­no­va­tion in the in­dus­try is the Float­ing Nu­clear Power Plant (page 36). On Oc­to­ber 2, 2018 Rosatom re­ported that it com­pleted load­ing nu­clear fuel into the sec­ond of two re­ac­tors of the world’s only FNPP “Akademik Lomonosov”, which is based in Mur­mansk. It is ex­pected to start gen­er­at­ing power in late 2019, mark­ing a ma­jor mile­stone not just in the his­tory of world’s civil nu­clear power in­dus­try, but also in the highly an­tic­i­pated en­ergy trend of sup­ply­ing power on de­mand, a con­cept well suited for the Mid­dle East where de­mand for power is grow­ing fast.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.