Features of nuclear development

Features of nuclear development

By D. Rozanov

According to the assessment of the World Nuclear Association (WNA) and the IEA Agency for the implementation of the Paris Agreement (limiting global warming to only two degrees Celsius before 2050), the world needs to put into operation 1000 GW of nuclear power capacity for the period (until 2050). This will require the connection to the network of up to 35 new nuclear power units per year (now only 10-15 power units per year are connected). Atoms have even come up with their name for "green energy". This is nuclear energy plus renewable energy sources.

The forecast of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says that until 2030 there will be a significant increase in nuclear generation in the world. And although there is now a slight decrease in the total output of nuclear power plants in the world (11 percent), in the coming years, the share of nuclear generation is projected to increase. At present, the main construction of nuclear power plants is in the Far East (China, Japan and Korea). The PRC declares the construction of 200-250 power units on the coast. If these plans are implemented, China will have up to 10 percent of nuclear generation at the installed capacity in the world.

The active construction of nuclear power plants is conducted in Europe. According to the Committee on Energy of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, it is conducted in France, Finland, Hungary, Slovakia. A significant share in the introduction of new power units falls on Russia, India, the United States and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The emergence of the UAE in the nuclear community is an example of how a country can from scratch come to a complete nuclear program.

For example, today Russia occupies a leading position in the world market of nuclear technologies. It is in the first place in the world in terms of the number of nuclear power plants being built at the same time abroad, in second place in terms of uranium reserves and in the fifth place in terms of its production. In terms of nuclear generation, Russia ranks fourth in the world and provides 40 percent of the world market of uranium enrichment services and 17 percent of the world nuclear fuel market. Russia has 10 nuclear power plants with a capacity of about 27.9 thousand megawatts. 35 power units of its nuclear power plants produced in 1946 194.4 billion kWh of electricity. The share of nuclear energy in the country's energy balance is almost 19 percent.

It is important to note that in October 2016 an innovative power unit No. 4 was commissioned at Beloyarsk NPP with a fast neutron reactor BN-800. This is the only NPP unit in the world with a reactor of this type and power. It is believed that the cardinal solution of the problems of nuclear power safety is precisely its transfer to the use of reactor technologies based on the principles of natural safety. Fast neutron reactors belong to such technologies. Reactors on fast neutrons allow to close the nuclear fuel cycle. That is, the problem of spent nuclear fuel is being removed. Compared to a common thermal neutron reactor, fast neutron reactors are safer: there is no high pressure in the reactor, there is practically no risk of loss of coolant due to boiling, there is no risk of steam zirconia reaction, which became one of the reasons for the explosions at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

The main advantage of this type of reactor is the possibility to involve in the fuel cycle such materials as Uranium-238 and thorium-232. This greatly expands the fuel base of nuclear power. In addition, these reactors allow relatively safe disposal of the most active and long-lived isotopes in spent nuclear fuel, essentially shortening the term of its biological hazard. In such reactors, plutonium is not produced (and consumed) (the main component for a nuclear bomb), then such reactors mean essentially technological support for the nuclear non-proliferation regime and remove restrictions related to the public acceptability of nuclear power.

Currently, to demonstrate the sustainable operation of the full complex of facilities that ensure the closure of the nuclear fuel cycle, Rosatom State Corporation has formed and is implementing the «Proryv» project, which is developing new types of reactors with improved technical and economic characteristics and a technology for closing nuclear fuel. Now there are up to 50 concepts of small nuclear reactors, which are being developed by the US and Russia, and construction is conducted by China and Argentina.

The draft of the energy strategy of Russia for the period up to 2035 envisages the development of safe modular reactors of small and medium power on thermal and fast neutrons, including combined generation of electrical and thermal energy and using them in district heating systems. While such reactors are planned to be applied for the Arctic and remote areas of the Far East. Here we are talking about the floating versions of nuclear power plants (including submarine nuclear installations for exploration and production of hydrocarbons in the Arctic) and about options from an unattended self-regulating nuclear power plant.

State corporation "Rosatom" takes part in international projects. The most famous of them is the ITER project (an international experimental thermonuclear reactor). In case of its successful implementation, mankind will receive an almost inexhaustible source of energy. It is important to mention here the international forum "Generation 1U (Roman), which is also called the MFP. This project was initiated by the United States for the purpose of international cooperation in the development of fourth-generation reactors.

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