Thursday, March 30, 2006

Skip Bowman on Global Nuclear Build

Earlier this week in Brussels at ENA 2006, NEI CEO Skip Bowman laid out five key points critical to the future of the industry. Here's #3:

Point No. 3: To build sustainable confidence in nuclear energy in the United States, we are defining a long-term road map and vision.

For sure in the near-term: A new construction cycle for advanced light water reactors, well-suited for baseload electricity production.

Possibly in the medium-term: Starting around 2025, commercial deployment of high-temperature reactors, with a more varied product slate, using advanced hydrogen production technologies, co-located with oil refineries and coal gasification plants, providing hydrogen they require to upgrade coal and the heavy crude oils of the future into usable products. Generating process heat to produce clean drinking water, to extract oil from tar sands and other industrial applications.

And the long-term vision: Over the next 30 to 40 years, deployment of advanced technologies to partition used fuel to recover the uranium and plutonium and recycle them, recycle long-lived minor actinides into fuel, deploy fast-spectrum reactors capable of burning actinides.
Note that last paragraph. Read it again, and understand that whatever progress we may make toward an integrated international program to recycle used nuclear fuel, it will not obviate the need for a national used fuel repository.

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2 comments:

Starvid, Sweden said...

I think it is really interesting what Bowman says, and does not say, about hydrogen.

He mentions "using advanced hydrogen production technologies, co-located with oil refineries and coal gasification plants, providing hydrogen they require to upgrade coal and the heavy crude oils of the future into usable products.
[...]
to extract oil from tar sands
[...]"

This is important as it is a hint at the peaking of global oil production in general and of light easily refined crudes in particular (the latter has probably already peaked).

What is also important that he specifically NOT mentions hydrogen fool cells.

It seems even the people in charge are starting to understand that technology is a dead end.

Brian Mays said...

Not necessarily. Regardless of what happens with fuel cells and hydrogen-powered cars and even if the technology and infrastructure are developed amazingly quickly, anyone who has been following the "hydrogen economy" closely knows that the applications that Bowman mentions will be the first applications of any nuclear hydrogen-producing technology.

Simply put, these technologies are available and are being used now. Therefore, if one wants to talk about deploying commercial HTR's in 2025 -- which means working to develop the technology now -- then one should focus on these applications, since they are the applications that the first HTR's will be used for.

In case some of our readers are unaware, extracting oil from tar sands is a process heat application and has nothing directly to do with hydrogen production (i.e., ignoring the possibility that the oil that is extracted might need to be "sweetened" with hydrogen).