4

Federal Research and Development Alternatives

The Committee was asked to develop a set of federal research and development (R&D) alternatives to guide a future civilian nuclear power development program. The alternatives presented here are based on the Committee's evaluation of the full range of practical technologies for future nuclear plants; they reflect no comparative evaluation of non-nuclear options for R&D funding. The formulation of this set of alternatives reflects an assessment of the relevance of existing civilian reactor development facilities of the Department of Energy (DOE) and the need for any new facilities and is based on the Committee 's evaluation described in Chapter 3.1

Three R&D alternatives are presented in this chapter following a summary of the current DOE programs. Funding requirements for the various elements of each alternative were estimated by the Committee based on DOE information. None of these alternatives addresses DOE's programs for high-level radioactive waste disposal. While demonstration reactors for these alternatives are identified, funding for final design and construction is not included.

1  

This chapter addresses alternative Department of Energy funding levels to support future civilian nuclear power development. This is consistent with the Senate Appropriations Committee Report 100-381 that formed the basis for this study (see Preface). The Committee did not attempt to assess (a) the ability (or willingness) of private industry to underwrite part or all of these R&D costs, (b) the appropriate federal role in either prototype or final development, or (c) comparisons between federal funding for civilian nuclear power programs and other energy related programs that compete for federal R&D resources.



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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE 4 Federal Research and Development Alternatives The Committee was asked to develop a set of federal research and development (R&D) alternatives to guide a future civilian nuclear power development program. The alternatives presented here are based on the Committee's evaluation of the full range of practical technologies for future nuclear plants; they reflect no comparative evaluation of non-nuclear options for R&D funding. The formulation of this set of alternatives reflects an assessment of the relevance of existing civilian reactor development facilities of the Department of Energy (DOE) and the need for any new facilities and is based on the Committee 's evaluation described in Chapter 3.1 Three R&D alternatives are presented in this chapter following a summary of the current DOE programs. Funding requirements for the various elements of each alternative were estimated by the Committee based on DOE information. None of these alternatives addresses DOE's programs for high-level radioactive waste disposal. While demonstration reactors for these alternatives are identified, funding for final design and construction is not included. 1   This chapter addresses alternative Department of Energy funding levels to support future civilian nuclear power development. This is consistent with the Senate Appropriations Committee Report 100-381 that formed the basis for this study (see Preface). The Committee did not attempt to assess (a) the ability (or willingness) of private industry to underwrite part or all of these R&D costs, (b) the appropriate federal role in either prototype or final development, or (c) comparisons between federal funding for civilian nuclear power programs and other energy related programs that compete for federal R&D resources.

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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE CURRENT PROGRAMS Funding Projections for Near-Term and Long-Term Technologies During the five Fiscal Years 1992 through 1996 DOE has proposed to spend about $1.6 billion on R&D for civilian nuclear power. Funding projections are about $0.2 billion for the near-term reactor technologies and about $1.4 billion for the long-term reactor technologies, including about $0.7 billion for support facilities (discussed below).[Rohm, 1991] For the near term, advanced mid-sized light water reactors (LWR) with passive safety features are being developed in cooperation with the nuclear industry. DOE also is providing some assistance to the industry's development of large evolutionary LWRs. For the long term, DOE is currently funding the development of modular high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (MHTGR) and liquid metal reactors (LMR). The funding projections for facilities include about $0.2 billion for shutdown of the Hanford fast flux test facility (FFTF) over the period FY 1992 through 1996. DOE has proposed to shut down the FFTF complex, although Congress has appropriated funds for continued operation in FY 1991. Facilities Currently Supported by Department of Energy No funds are presently provided for DOE test facilities to support the development of commercial LWRs, nor have any facilities been identified and requested for DOE funding by the nuclear industry. However, many DOE test facilities currently exist in support of the LMR development program. [Hunter, 1989] The most important of these facilities are: The FFTF (located in Washington)--a large LMR designed for irradiation tests of multiple full-sized metallic or oxide fuel elements in realistic conditions. It also has the capability for testing fuels and materials for a wide range of fission and fusion concepts, including safety related experiments. The experimental breeder reactor-II (EBR-II, located in Idaho)--a LMR, which serves as an irradiation test bed for metallic fuel elements of small modular reactors and as a test bed for safety experiments. Although the fuel element lengths are shorter than those envisioned for advanced commercial LMRs, EBR-II is a major element of the integral fast reactor (IFR) program. The hot fuel examination facility/south (HFEF/S, located in Idaho)--used for support of the IFR program on metallic fuel.

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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE The fuel manufacturing facility (FMF, located in Idaho)--used for demonstration of manufacturing technology for LMR fuel elements. The transient reactor test facility (TREAT, located in Idaho)--a facility for transient tests of fuel elements and clusters of elements. The zero power physics reactor (ZPPR, located in Idaho)--a critical test facility for neutronic physics tests of new core concepts. The Energy Technology Engineering Center (ETEC, located in California)--facilities for development and testing of components. The hot fuel examination facility/north (HFEF/N, located in Idaho)--a hot cell facility for examination of irradiated fuel. The Hanford hot fuel examination facility (HFEF, located in Washington)--a hot cell facility for examination of irradiated fuel. DOE does not have any major facilities to support exclusively the development of the MHTGR or Canadian heavy water reactor concepts. However, there is some support equipment used at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for studies of the high temperature behavior of fuel particles for gas reactors. FEDERAL RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ALTERNATIVES Three alternative DOE R&D programs are presented. The Committee has concluded that each alternative would help retain nuclear power as an option for meeting U.S. electric energy requirements, albeit with significantly different long-term implications. These alternatives have progressively higher levels of funding. No consideration has been made of how funding for these three alternatives should compare to funding for other energy related programs that compete for federal R&D resources. A key feature of the alternatives is a clear delineation between research activities and development activities. A properly formulated civilian nuclear energy program should include a continuing, broad-based research component aimed at identifying promising new concepts and at confirming the feasibility of critical features of concepts already identified. In contrast, the development component should identify and pursue only one or two concepts in recognition of the large commitment of resources necessary for successful development, first-plant demonstrations, and commercialization of any reactor concept. The assumptions upon which the alternatives are based are presented first followed by the research elements common to all three policy alternatives.

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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE Assumptions Irradiation Test Capability Nuclear reactor development requires evaluation and integration of mechanical, electrical, electronic, and neutronic design concepts. Among the most difficult, and the most time-consuming, to evaluate are the issues concerning fuel behavior, particularly new fuel concepts and under transient conditions. Therefore, the successful conduct of any new U.S. reactor development program in which new fuel and core materials are employed requires a versatile, reliable, high-temperature irradiation test capability. This capability is essential to the development of fuels and other in-reactor materials such as moderator, structural, and control materials. In addition, it will provide the means for studying fission product behavior in both normal and accident environments for a fuel design concept. Federal irradiation test facilities contributed significantly to the development of materials technology in the naval reactors program.[DOE and DOD, 1988; Hewlett, 1974; Westinghouse, 1958] The naval irradiation test programs primarily utilized the irradiation test facilities of the materials test reactor (MTR), engineering test reactor (ETR), advanced test reactor (ATR), and the Canadian Chalk River test reactor with in-pile loops. An irradiation capability should provide test-to-failure for sample materials and proof testing of prototypic materials and configurations essential to the development of reactor fuels. These tests should be carried out in an environment that matches, in all essential characteristics, the irradiation conditions to which the prospective fuel and cladding will be exposed. To achieve this fidelity of test-to-design, several desirable factors must be considered: (1) simultaneous achievement of representative fuel burnup and clad fluence; (2) test of full length fuel elements; and (3) test of prototypic-sized arrays of fuel pins under design conditions. These experiments should be done in facilities specifically designed to provide high neutron fluxes and proper energy spectrums so that the tests simultaneously test the fuel and its coating or clad under essentially prototypic conditions. Consequently, the Committee's R&D alternatives are based on the following assumptions regarding irradiation test facilities. Such facilities are needed for both research programs and development programs. Research programs need facilities capable of screening materials to select candidate design materials and configurations. Development programs can benefit greatly from facilities capable of testing prototype configurations of design materials to full design conditions. If adequate irradiation facilities are unavailable, the reactor development program would have to accept the significant technical risk inherent in extrapolating from a firm, tested technical

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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE basis to desired design conditions. In a slower-paced program, such extrapolations may be minimized by use of successive plant sizes, albeit at increased future cost. However, in even a modestly aggressive program, extrapolations of fuel irradiation behavior are uncertain, and availability of adequate irradiation facilities becomes very important. An alternative to a versatile irradiation test facility in the United States is contracting for irradiation services at foreign test reactors to achieve timely test data under prototypic test conditions. However, for LMR needs, the United States would have to negotiate with foreign owners of LMRs regarding the conduct of specific tests, which may or may not become available.2 Nuclear Regulatory Commission Research For the advanced LWRs with passive safety features currently supported by DOE, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) confirmatory research program is necessary to acquire the data and analytic tools required to make certification decisions on these designs. We have assumed this research will be provided. However, the NRC research budget has declined substantially in the 1980s, and NRC research funds may not be sufficient to support timely certification, currently scheduled to be 1992 for the large evolutionary LWRs and 1994 to 1995 for the mid-sized LWRs with passive safety features. We note that NRC's Nuclear Safety Research Review Committee (NSRRC) concluded in its report dated December 21, 1990 The FYP [Five Year Plan] does not address specific research for advanced reactors, and the NSRRC recommends that RES [NRC's Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research] and the NRC give prompt attention to this important issue. The distribution of funds across the major program areas of the FYP is appropriate given current needs and available funds. It would be difficult, however, to sustain a viable nuclear safety research program to support the NRC if the current budgets are decreased. In fact, budget increases will be needed to address the requirements for new technologies under regulatory oversight.[Morrison, 1990] 2   Out of pile research experiments on component materials behavior will also be of considerable importance.

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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE Common Research Elements In addition to R&D being done by industry, three research elements are common to all alternatives: (1) reactor research at federal facilities; (2) university research funding; and (3) support for research to improve the operational performance and to extend the lifetimes of existing nuclear plants in the United States. The Committee believes these elements must be funded adequately to retain nuclear power as an option for meeting U.S. electric energy requirements. Reactor Research Research activity is vital to provide fundamental understanding of fuel cycle aspects of technologies already identified and to develop new reactor concepts. For example, research on fuel cycle aspects of the metal fuelled fast LMR, which could be accomplished by operating HFEF/S and FMF, including evolution of key prototypic reactor design and safety features, would be funded. To provide irradiation testing, EBR-II would be operated. This would provide limited capability for LMR fuel testing and for safety research at a U.S. facility. The Committee concluded that federal support for development of a commercial version of the MHTGR should be a low priority (see section entitled “Excluded Program” later in this chapter). However, the fundamental design strategy of the MHTGR is based upon the integrity of the fuel (= 1600°C) under operation and accident conditions. There are other potentially significant uses for such fuel, in particular, space propulsion.[Pierce, 1985; Powell and Horn, 1987; Powell and Botts, 1983; Powell et al., 1985] Consequently, the Committee believes that DOE should consider maintaining a coated fuel particle research program within that part of DOE focused on space reactors. Additionally, research would explore reactor concepts not addressed in this report, materials in particular fuels, and design features that would otherwise not be examined in the United States. Future reactor development directions are vitally dependent on the ability of DOE to sustain such a component that can originate innovative ideas. University Research The second element, funding for research at universities, recognizes and exploits the potential of university academic programs to enhance DOE research by generating new technology and reactor concepts and to sustain the commercial nuclear power industry by producing technically educated

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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE graduates. A recent National Research Council report stresses the need for additional and continued support for nuclear engineering students and research faculty. Whereas the need remains strong, over the last decade, nuclear engineering academic programs at both the masters and undergraduate levels have declined in terms of (1) the number of students enrolling, (2) the number of schools offering such curricula, and (3) the number of research reactors on university campuses. 3 [NAS, 1990] Operational Performance Improvement and Plant Life Extension The final common element in each alternative is the recommendation that DOE support research programs to improve the operational performance and investigate the means to achieve plant life extension of existing nuclear plants in the United States. The successful operation of existing plants is required to restore public confidence in the nuclear option, and the achievement of life extension will maintain the contribution of electricity production from existing nuclear plants substantially beyond their original licensed period. Utilities find it difficult to justify R&D money as part of their rate base, and vendors have little incentive to carry out such research. These factors, a variety of other reasons, and an orientation to near-term “bottom-line” results limit the investments to levels lower than the Committee believes necessary. While NRC is doing some research in areas strictly related to its licensing responsibilities, the major share of the required R&D effort must come from DOE. 3   Undergraduate senior enrollments in nuclear engineering programs decreased from 1,150 in 1978 to about 650 by 1988. Enrollments in masters programs also peaked in the late 1970s, at about 1,050 students, and steadily declined to about 650 students in 1988. Since 1982, however, student enrollment in doctoral programs has remained relatively steady at about 600. The number of U.S. undergraduate nuclear engineering programs declined from 80 in 1975 to 57 in 1989. Two decades ago, 76 U.S. university research reactors were operating. By 1987, 27 university research reactors were in operation at universities offering nuclear engineering degrees or options in nuclear engineering.[NAS, 1990]

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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE Alternative Program 1: Light Water Reactor Development and Common Research Elements Two very differing perspectives have been publicly espoused regarding the technology upon which to base retention of nuclear power as an option for meeting future U.S. electric energy requirements. The first is that the experience with light water technology has provided a foundation for this retention and should be pursued, incorporating improvements as they are developed. The second is that this experience has been sufficiently flawed by accidents and economic difficulties to warrant a shift to a completely new nuclear technology. The Committee believes the first perspective is correct because there is far greater experience with LWR plant and fuel design, construction, regulation, and operation; there is no need for substantial additional R&D; LWR technology can be deployed commercially with much shorter and more predictable schedules and costs; and it utilizes existing resources and infrastructures more effectively than other designs; all of which makes for less uncertainties with this technology for the near term than any alternative. Chapter 3 presented the Committee's conclusion that LWRs are the most likely candidates for commercial purchase in the next 15 to 30 years. The Committee concluded that, of the advanced designs, the large, evolutionary LWRs will be the first to be certified in the United States. Work on these designs is mature, having been funded cooperatively by Japanese and U.S. industry. Consequently, the Committee sees no need for federal R &D funding for these concepts, although federal funding could accelerate the certification process. The Committee does see the evolutionary LWRs as the most likely to be available for purchase in the next few years, and has concluded that these reactors, if they meet their design goals, would satisfy safety and lifetime cost requirements. Therefore, if additional federal funding is required to meet unique NRC certification requirements, such funding would be consistent with retaining nuclear power as an option for the United States. Whether it should be included in a government program would require an analysis of industry's ability to fund such work and evaluation of the appropriate role of the federal government in assisting what are basically commercial products. In addition to the evolutionary LWRs, the mid-sized LWR with passive safety features could serve to retain nuclear power as a U.S. option. Therefore, R&D Alternative 1 concentrates development funding on determining how improvements in the concept of a mid-sized LWR with passive safety features can be realized. The required single and integral scaled tests can be carried out in private industrial facilities. Hence, no new DOE test facilities are needed for mid-sized LWRs with passive safety features. However, these tests are vital for the development of such advanced reactors.

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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE Consequently, the Committee judges that these tests will be required for each passive safety related system at a scale large enough to validate design criteria. Long-term retention of the nuclear option would require assurance of long-term availability of economical fuel supply. The LMR, which can be designed to perform as a near breeder or a true breeder, is a concept whose introduction would provide this assurance. However, the date by which breeders will be needed is uncertain and depends principally on the rate of growth of nuclear power production in the United States and in other countries and on domestic and world natural uranium resources. Therefore, R&D Alternative 1 is based on the premise that the LMR development program, as opposed to research programs, for long-term needs could be deferred and initiated at a later date when the time frame of its need becomes more defined. Concurrent research on the LMR, which currently emphasizes the IFR concept, as well as investigation of other reactor basic research, is accomplished in Alternative 1 through the Reactor Research common element. (The IFR concept utilizess metal fuel processed in situ by pyrometallurgy.) In addition, the other two common research elements, university research and operational performance improvement and plant life extension of existing LWRs, are included in R&D Alternative 1. The Committee also concludes that no first plant mid-sized LWR with passive safety features is likely to be certified and built without government incentives, in the form of shared funding or financial guarantees.4 The Committee has not addressed what type of government financial assistance (if any) would be required nor what should be the specific type for the first LWR plant to be built. As a result, budget projections listed for the three alternatives include no allowances for federal investment in the actual licensing and construction of a reactor and therefore may be significantly less than what actually would be required. Whatever approach is used, the role of the industry and government must be explicit from the beginning. In summary, this first alternative, which has the lowest cost, contains the three common elements, assumes that certification of evolutionary LWRs will not require further DOE funding, limits development to mid-sized LWRs with passive safety features, and maintains the LMR program as a research activity. The major facility for LMR irradiation research, EBR-II, would be retained under this option. 4   DOE has estimated that lead plant engineering alone would require about $100 million of federal funding in the 1990s.[Griffith, 1990]

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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE Introduction to Alternatives 2 and 3 As discussed in Chapter 2, the Committee believes that several factors other than reactor designs will strongly influence whether nuclear power will be retained as an option in the United States. We have concluded that, if nuclear power plants are to be ordered within the next few years, the evolutionary LWR will be available. If a later time, toward the end of this decade or early in the next, is the introduction point, R&D Alternative 1 is aimed at ensuring that the mid-sized LWRs with passive safety features also would be available. Were the nuclear option to be chosen, and large scale, long-term deployment followed, uranium supplies at competitive prices would eventually become exhausted. This eventuality has been the fundamental and traditional basis for reactor development program strategies that have called for the future introduction of the breeder concept and, in past periods of optimism, for near-breeders to extend the time period before breeders were required. The liquid metal cooled fission reactor is the most developed of potentially exploitable technologies and can be designed to operate over a range of conversion ratios. This flexibility, the positive LMR operating history, and the judgment arrived at in Chapter 3 that no other advanced concept has a discernable relative safety advantage led the Committee to conclude that the LMR should be the successor reactor to LWR technology. The estimate of the time for LMR commercial deployment should take into consideration the projected use of uranium and its consequent increase in price, the annual growth rate for U.S. electric generating capacity, and how that growth may be met. One recent National Research Council study[National Research Council, 1987] concluded that Depending on the extent of future use of light-water reactors, the total use and commitment of known U.S. uranium oxide resources (U 3O8) at a price less than $200 per pound could occur as early as the year 2020; that circumstance would be more likely to occur between 2020 and 2045. Availability of global uranium supplies would delay this occurrence by about thirty years. The effect of reduction in enrichment costs by successful introduction of advanced technologies such as AVLIS (atomic vapor laser isotope separation) were not considered in this study, but would tend to further extend these dates. Based on the conclusion in the National Research Council study, introduction of the LMR breeder could occur as early as 2020 or as late as 2075. Other considerations are (1) the retention of an existing trained cadre of LMR engineers and scientists, together with existing facilities for LMR

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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE development, and (2) the time needed for development, prototype constrnction, and accumulation of sufficient prototype operation experience upon which to base a decision to commercialize the technology. The first factor is relevant to the latest target date while the second affects the earliest date. The Committee believes that the development, construction, and operation phases require approximately fifteen-, ten-, and ten-year periods, respectively. This thirty-five year total period leads to an earliest date of 2025, but we have no information on which to estimate the impact of the retention factor. Hence, while the year 2025 is early in the range of the uranium cost scenarios, the Committee adopted the target date of 2025 as the earliest date of introduction. Consequently, Alternatives 2 and 3 have been developed to provide R&D alternatives that would explicitly include development of the liquid metal breeder option rather than postponing the decision to a later date, as is the case under Alternative 1. Alternative Program 2: Alternative 1 Plus Liquid Metal Reactor Development The rationale for Alternative 2 is to maintain a national program that assures retention of the nuclear option for the longer term; this requires the continued availability of an economic nuclear fuel resource. The LMR employing a breeding cycle is the only assured means of providing this resource currently foreseen. Developments in competing nuclear and non-nuclear energy supply options, as well as technological progress on the LMR itself, will determine when it should be deployed. This R&D Alternative retains much of the existing program infrastructure and applies it to developing LMRs for possible commercial deployment by the year 2025. This target date allows the development program to proceed in a slower and less costly manner than is included in R&D Alternative 3. In addition to funding development of the mid-sized LWRs and the common research elements embodied in Alternative 1, this alternative adds funding for development of LMRs for commercial deployment by the year 2025. This development program would encompass all conceptual and engineering design, component development, and testing that would allow the first LMR plant to be built and placed in service by the year 2015. Successful experience with this early (first) plant is needed to develop a sufficient economic, safety, and operational basis for commercial confidence in the design prior to beginning commercial deployment in 2025. The current program for development of an LMR would be expanded to begin more detailed design of a demonstration plant, but no funds are included for

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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE construction. Funding for constructing this first plant will need to be shared by government and industry. This alternative would also include limited research to examine the feasibility of recycling actinides from LWR spent fuel, utilizing the LMR. As in Alternative 1, Alternative 2 assumes completion of the planned shutdown of the FFTF, but provides irradiation capability through operation of EBR-II. The availability of the FFTF would reduce the magnitude of the extrapolations required in the conduct of the fuels and materials development programs for the LMR concept. However, in view of the proposed extended development schedule of this alternative and the recommendation to construct at least one first plant, the required fuel performance extrapolations might be tolerable. Consequently, the Committee believes that it is possible to explore structuring this program without the assumed availability of the FFTF, which would be shut down if the current DOE intent is fulfilled. Alternative 2 does require that DOE test facilities in Idaho (TREAT and ZPPR) and ETEC continue to operate. They currently exist in support of the LMR program, but would be shut down under Alternative 1. With respect to ETEC, DOE should give priority to testing U.S. concepts for industrial components of an LMR. Additionally, cooperative development activities of mutual interest to Japanese or European designs should be pursued. Some DOE facilities for examining hot fuel that are currently operating may not be needed for this alternative. The Committee did not attempt to determine which facilities should be retained to provide the necessary support for this level of research. The Committee believes that DOE should determine whether the Idaho HFEF/N or the Hanford HFEF should be closed down (or placed in standby). Alternative Program 3: Alternative 1 Plus Accelerated Liquid Metal Reactor Development, Including Light Water Reactor Actinide Recycling Studies This alternative continues the mid-sized LWR development program in the previous alternatives as well as the common elements. However, it expands the LMR program to make available the option of commercially deploying LMRs in 2015. The advancement in date from the year 2025 of Alternative 2 is adopted to reflect the earliest date the Committee believes is practically possible to ready the LMR for commercialization. This could be achieved by reductions of five years in both the required development phase and the prototype construction phase. The earlier date could become desirable if the LMR safety characteristics, the capacity of recycling of its own

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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE actinides, and a greater demand for breeding were to become publicly recognized as very desirable features. Alternative 3 includes accelerated development of the IFR concept. The FFTF is retained in this option for fuel irradiation testing. This alternative also provides for investigation of the desirability and feasibility of recycling actinides from LWR spent fuel. A target date for determining the technical, economic, and political feasibility of actinide recycle for LWR spent fuel is 2005. Emphasis on actinide recycling is warranted if it can be shown to reduce significantly the time that waste in a geological repository needs to be isolated and that no adverse institutional or technical constraints to waste fuel management are introduced. However, in the Committee's view, it should be emphasized that actinide recycling studies are not a substitute for proceeding expeditiously to construct a high-level radioactive waste isolation facility. We also note that plutonium, the major alpha-active by-product of existing reactor operations, can be utilized in LMRs or, in mixed-oxide fuel in LWRs. Of course, either requires reprocessing of spent fuel. This R&D alternative will require an irradiation reactor facility for testing both fuel assemblies and composite fuel pins at as near to prototypic steady and transient conditions as possible and at accelerated testing times. These factors are most important for the LMR development proposed in this alternative because the development time cycle is to be accelerated and high fuel element burnup per fuel cycle is desired for recycling studies. Consequently, the Committee believes, unlike DOE [Griffith, Undated], that this development path would be far better pursued by maintaining the FFTF to support the LMR program. The FFTF is superior to EBR-II regarding the following valuable technical irradiation goals: (1) simultaneous match of irradiation damage to the clad based on neutron fluence with peak fuel burnup based on the energy averaged neutron flux for fission; (2) irradiation of prototypic fuel lengths with design peak-to-average axial power ratios to confirm axial fuel pin behavior particularly with respect to axial fuel motion under transient conditions; and (3) testing of prototypic sized fuel assemblies under prototypic irradiation, coolant temperature, and coolant velocity conditions. In fact, the Committee was informed by DOE that nine LMR test assemblies are currently being irradiated in the FFTF. Without the availability of the FFTF, significant extrapolation from test conditions to LMR design conditions will be required, although, as described in Alternative 2, this is possible. The amount of extrapolation will increase as the fuel is enriched in order to reduce testing times. Hence, the Committee retaing the FFTF in this alternative.

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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE EBR-II would remain operational until its current fuel irradiation and closed fuel cycle programs are completed. This transition is estimated to take 5 to 7 years. Excluded Programs None of the three alternatives presented contain funding for the development of the MHTGR. The Committee carefully reviewed the current state of the high-temperature gas-cooled reactor, including safety and economic considerations, as a technology for the generation of electricity and high-temperature gas. This assessment included the further R&D required, including attendant uncertainties, and the projected economics of the technology. The Committee concluded that no foreseeable commercial market exists for MHTGR-produced process heat, which is the unique strategic capability of the MHTGR. Further, as discussed in Chapter 3, the MHTGR does not offer demonstrable cost or safety advantages over the other concepts. Therefore, given the limited funds available for commercial nuclear power development and the desirability to focus and coalesce efforts behind light water and liquid metal technologies, no funds should be allocated for development of high-temperature gas-cooled reactor technology within the commercial nuclear power development budget of DOE. The Committee also has concluded that no funds should be allocated for R&D on SIR, PIUS, or CANDU-3 (the other advanced reactors discussed in Chapter 3). However, the Committee has taken no position on private funding or international consortia for any of these reactor types, or for the MHTGR. Costs of the Alternatives The approximate annual costs for DOE of each of the above alternatives are depicted in Table 4-1. DOE programs for FY 1990 and FY 1991 are shown for comparison. (Note: The numbers in Table 4-1 are approximate; actual numbers would need to be developed by DOE or the Office of Management and Budget.) The annual costs in Table 4-1 are average costs for the near term, about the next five years, for each alternative. These costs specifically include the costs to operate those facilities that have been identified as needed for each alternative. All of these alternatives will take considerably longer than five years to achieve commercialization of one or more reactor technologies. The life cycle costs of these alternatives, which must include any government contribution to first plant construction, remain to be developed.

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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE TABLE 4.1 Near Term R&D Funding Requireda Programs: Large Evolutionary Reactors Mid-sized LWR Development MHTGR Develop.     COMMON ELEMENTS Total Per Year         LMR Reactor Research University Research Performance and Life-extension of Existing Plants     Develop. Facilities Facilities LMR/New Concepts       Base (Common Elements) · · · · · 45b 20/5 5 10 85 R&D Alternatives 1. LWR Development and Common Elements · 30 · · · 45 20/5 5 10 115 2. Alternative 1+ LMR Development · 30 · 20 25c 45 20/5 5 10 160e 3. Alternative 1+ Accelerated LMR Development, Including Actinide Recycling Studies · 30 · 40 115d 45 20/5 5 10 270e DOE Programs FY 1990 3 15 22 0h < .......169 ....... > 36 0 3 248f FY 1991 7 20 19 0h < ....... 176 ....... > 38 0 4 264g a Government costs for any first plant are not included. b EBR-II, HFEF/S, and FMF c TREAT, ZPPR, ETEC, and either HFEF/N or Hanford HFEF d FFTF added. e LMR demonstration plant funding is not included. f Excludes $2 million for advanced LWR severe accident studies and $1 million for safety exchanges with the Soviet Union. g Excludes $3 million for advanced LWR severe accident studies, $8 million for safety exchanges with the Soviet Union, and $3 million for early site permits. h Assumes all LMR expenditures are for research, not development. SOURCE: Committee estimates based on Department of Energy (Officeof Civilian Reactor Development) information dated March 20,1991and subsequent communications. NOTE: The numbers in Table 4-1 are approximate; actual numbers would need to be developed by DOE and/or the Office of Management and Budget.

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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE Additional Considerations Finally, for whatever alternative R&D program is selected, DOE and the nuclear industry must ensure (1) that the reactors designed and developed equal or exceed the top tier design safety requirements advocated by the Electric Power Research Institute (Table 3-2), and (2) that projected total lifetime generation costs are such that the electricity produced is competitive with electricity produced (or saved) by alternative baseload technologies. For whatever alternative is selected, the Committee's budget projections are intended to include R&D funding to address concerns about the potential for the risk of diversion of sensitive nuclear materials. Special attention will need to be paid to the LMR. It is the Committee's judgment that Alternative 2 should be followed because it: provides adequate support for the most promising near-term reactor technologies; provides sufficient support for LMR development to maintain the technical capabilities of the LMR R&D community; would support deployment of LMRs to breed fuel by the second quarter of the next century should that be needed; and would maintain a research program in support of both existing and advanced reactors. SUMMARY The alternative R&D programs developed in this chapter contain three common research elements: (1) reactor research using federal facilities; retained for the LMR are EBR-II, HFEF/S, and FMF. The Committee believes that DOE should consider maintining a coated fuel particle research program within that part of DOE focused on space reactors; (2) university research programs; and (3) improved performance and life extension programs for existing U.S. nuclear power plants. Alternative 1 adds funding to assist development of the mid-sized LWRs with passive safety features. Alternative 2 adds a LMR development program and associated facilities (TREAT, ZPPR, ETEC, and either HFEF/N or the Hanford HFEF). This alternative would also include limited research to examine the feasibility of recycling actinides from LWR spent fuel, utilizing the LMR. Finally, Alternative 3 adds FFTF and increases LMR funding to accelerate reactor and IFR fuel cycle development and examination of actinide recycle of LWR spent fuel.

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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE None of the three alternatives contain funding for development of MHTGR, SIR, PIUS, or CANDU-3. Significant analysis and research is required to assess both the technical and economic feasibility of recycling actinides from LWR spent fuel. It is the Committee's judgment that Alternative 2 should be followed.

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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE REFERENCES DOE and DOD. 1988. A Review of the United States Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. June. Griffith, J.D., Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Reactor Systems Development and Technology, Office of Nuclear Energy, Department of Energy. 1990. Letter to Archie L. Wood, Director, Energy Engineering Board. July 16, 1990 Griffith J.D., Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Reactor Systems Development and Technology, Office of Nuclear Energy, Department of Energy. Undated. Letter to Archie L. Wood, Director, Energy Engineering Board. Received June 29, 1990. Forwarding Comments on the Draft Paper, The Need for the FFTF in the LMR Development Program. Hewlett, R.G., and F. Duncan. 1974. Nuclear Navy, 1946-1962. University of Chicago Press. Hunter, R.A. 1989. Presentation to the National Research Council on DOE-Nuclear Energy Test Facilities Office of Facilities, Fuel Cycle and Test Programs, Department of Energy. October 19, 1989. Morrison, D.L. 1990. Report on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Research Strategy from the Nuclear Safety Research Review Committee December 21, 1990. (Forwarded via letter from David L. Morrison, Chairman, to Eric Beckjord, Director, Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research) National Academy of Sciences. 1990. U.S. Nuclear Engineering Education: Status and Prospects, Committee on Nuclear Engineering Education. Washington, D.C. National Research Council. 1987. Outlook for the Fusion Hybrid and Tritium-Breeding Fusion Reactors National Academy Press. Washington, D.C. Pierce, B. L. 1985. Gas Cooled Reactor Concepts for Space Applications. Space Nuclear Power Systems 1984. M. S. El-Genk and M. D. Hoover, eds. Orbit Book Co. Chapter 24. 191-196 Powell, J. R., and T. E. Botts. 1983. Particle Bed Reactors and Related Concepts. Proc. Advanced Compact Reactor Systems. National Academy of Sciences. November 15-17, 1982 Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. 95-153.

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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE Powell, J. R., T. E. Botts, F. L. Horn, O. W. Lazareth, and J. L. Usher. 1985. SNUG: A Compact Particle Bed Reactor for the 400 to 4000 kWt Power Range. Space Nuclear Power Systems 1984. M. S. El-Genk and M. D. Hoover, eds. Orbit Book Co. Chapter 29. 239-248. Powell, J. R., and F. L. Horn. 1987. High Power Density Reactors Based on Direct Cooled Particle Beds. Space Nuclear Power Systems 1984. M. S. El-Genk and M. D. Hoover, eds. Orbit Book Co. Chapter 39. 319-329 Rohm, H.H. Letter to Norm Haller, National Research Council. Office of Civilian Reactor Development, Department of Energy. March 20, 1991 Westinghouse Electric Corporation and Duquesne Light Company. 1958. The Shippingport Pressurized Water Reactor Naval Reactors Branch, United States Atomic Energy Commission Reading, Mass.: Addison Wesley Publishing Company.