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Review of Doe’s Nuclear Energy Research and Development Program
Change processes and operational standards for the plant life.
Recommendation 2-3. DOE should work with the industry consortia to increase efforts to standardize safety and licensing issues across all families of reactor designs. DOE should also provide additional cost-shared funds to accelerate the schedules in the NP 2010 Five-Year Plan.
Deployment and Infrastructure Issues
The 25-year-long suspension of new plant construction in the United States has badly weakened the infrastructure needed to support a robust and growing nuclear power industry. A vigorous and comprehensive program to strengthen it should be carried out to assure that NP 2010 provides the basis for construction for which it was intended.
More intensive construction planning and the application of advanced construction technologies are needed to assure that construction time will be no more than 4 years. The scope of this planning should cover the transition from construction to preoperational systems testing, operational procedures, the man–machine interface, and operator training. The impact of these issues on the success of the NP 2010 program calls for reconsideration by both DOE and industry of the decision conveyed in the present DOE Five-Year Plan to terminate NP 2010 when the COL is issued.
Recommendation 2-4. NE should immediately initiate a cooperative project with industry to identify problems that have arisen in the construction and start-up of new plants and define best practices for use by the industry.
Recommendation 2-5. DOE should include within the NP 2010 program a DOE/industry workshop to identify activities that would revitalize infrastructure for the construction of new nuclear plants, including the nuclear qualification of vendors and constructors; manufacturing capacity; and the availability of professional staff and skilled craftspeople and construction personnel. Additional tasks that merit further DOE support should be identified at this workshop.
Recommendation 2-6. DOE should fund a taskforce to work with industry groups on construction technology and planning to ensure that consortia construction time goals of 4 years or less will be met.
R&D Relevant to the NP 2010 Program
R&D needed to improve operational plants has been carried out primarily by industry and supplemented by joint cost-shared efforts with DOE under the NEPO Program. The work includes advanced materials, high-burn-up LWR fuel, coolant chemical controls, equipment reliability, and life extension beyond 60 years. If the goal of high-burn-up fuel is achieved, not only will fuel economy improve, but also the capacity requirements for the spent fuel repository will be substantially reduced. The R&D can be applied to new plants when deployed. Although Congress has authorized funding for this kind of R&D (NESSP), DOE has not submitted budget requests for that purpose.
Recommendation 2-7. DOE should evaluate the need for a reinvigorated R&D program to improve the performance of existing nuclear plants in a DOE-industry cost-shared effort separate from NP 2010. The estimated benefits to society should substantially exceed the government investment. In the event of funding constraints, NP 2010 funding for new plant deployment should have priority over this R&D for LWRs.
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