Concerns over energy resource availability, climate change and energy security suggest an important role for nuclear power in supplying energy in the twenty-first century. However, if nuclear is to make a contribution in meeting the world´s future energy needs, it has to be developed and expanded in a sustainable manner.
A new generation of nuclear reactors and related fuel cycles involving different technologies, collectively known as Generation IV, is being developed globally to meet the criteria of sustainability, enhanced safety, economics, and proliferation resistance.
The IAEA is playing a pivotal part in this effort, bringing together nuclear technology holders and users to consider jointly international and national actions that would result in innovations in nuclear reactors, fuel cycles and institutional approaches. The Agency´s efforts in this sense are led by the International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO), a mechanism for members to collaborate on these issues and to help member states to assess the sustainability.
"International cooperation and collaboration are instrumental to both of our missions and objectives, and INPRO strives to work in synergy with other international initiatives such as the Generation IV International Forum (GIF)," said Yury Sokolov, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy, opening a GIF-INPRO meeting taking place this week in Vienna.
"Recognition of the complementarities of the two projects opens opportunities for new forms of cooperation," he said.
We need cooperation on technical innovation to reduce costs, enhance both safety and proliferation resistance capabilities," explains Yutaka Sagayama, Deputy Director General of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and Chairman of GIF.
"We need to cooperate to make the best efforts to develop these systems as early as possible."
While GIF is focused on reactor technologies, INPRO is looking at broader issues, focusing more on institutional and infrastructure requirements that can support the implementation of technological innovation and developing a methodology for Nuclear Energy System Assessment (NESA).
"To begin with, we will hold a series of workshops on issues relating to safety approaches and priorities for advanced sodium-cooled fast reactors," explains Jong Kyun Park, Director of the IAEA´s Division of Nuclear Power.
Work on other types of reactors and areas will follow.
"Both GIF and INPRO are working on methodologies to assess these new nuclear energy systems in the areas of proliferation resistance and physical protection, risk and safety assessment, and economics, and there is great value to harmonizing these efforts between the two multi-lateral projects," said Randy Beatty, INPRO Group Leader.
As to the timeframe of a possible debut of at least some of these technologies in the market, the target date for deployment is currently proposed around 2020 to 2030.
"We are working on the viability and feasibility of these systems right now," says Harold McFarlane, Technical Director of GIF.
"They are promising systems but they are not at the stage of deployment yet."
The Fourth GIF-INPRO Interface Meeting was held in Vienna from 1 to 3 March 2010.
Generation IV nuclear energy systems are next-generation technologies being developed to have comparative advantages including reduced capital cost, enhanced nuclear safety, minimal generation of nuclear waste, and further reduction of the risk of weapons materials proliferation:
- Gas-Cooled Fast Reactor (GFR);
- Very-High-Temperature Reactor (VHTR);
- Supercritical-Water-Cooled Reactor (SCWR);
- Sodium-Cooled Fast Reactor (SFR);
- Lead-Cooled Fast Reactor (LFR); and
- Molten Salt Reactor (MSR).