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NPI Volume 3 Issue 3
World Nuclear Power Reactors & Uranium Requirements
Canadians have used electricity generated by nuclear power reactors in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick for decades and the country has produced just over 2 million used fuel bundles. With each used fuel bundle weighing about 24 kilograms and stretching 0.5 meters in length, the used fuel bundles could be stacked to fill six hockey rinks from the floor to the top of the boards. Canada, like other countries, is now planning what to do with the radioactive waste.
As nuclear engineers well understand, the water in nuclear reactor containment vessels moderates the speed of the neutrons released by the uranium in order to sustain the chain reaction, and carries the heat away from the reactor core, ultimately generating the steam to drive the turbines. Failure of the water system can have dire consequences; hence, nuclear power plants are designed with an emergency core cooling system (ECCS) to provide the cooling needed for extended time required to cool the reactor fuel. There is one potential issue, however, which can cause the ECCS to fail: a loss-of-coolant accident (LOCA) coupled with debris from the LOCA clogging the ECCS suction screens.
Today Finland has 125 years of nuclear power reactor operating experience and this gives a good basis for construction and licensing of new nuclear power plants (NPPs). Two VVER-440 type plants are located in Loviisa and two BWR’s of Swedish (Asea-Atom) design are located in Olkiluoto. The initial net power of those power plants was 440 MW and 660 MW, respectively. The power of Loviisa reactors has been increased in one step and Olkiluoto reactors in two steps.
Nuclear power could generate 25 percent of the world’s electricity by 2050, according to a joint study by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA).
As a result of renewed interest in nuclear power worldwide along with an increasingly global supply chain for nuclear power generation, compliance with U.S. and non-U.S. export control laws is a critical issue for the nuclear industry. Driven by growing concerns regarding the proliferation of nuclear weapons, governments increasingly are focusing on enforcing export controls and preventing the spread of technology that can contribute to nuclear weapons programs. One of the most active nations in implementing such laws and regulations is the United States. Pursuant to these laws and regulations, U.S. and non-U.S. companies are restricted from conducting certain types of nuclear activities worldwide, depending on the nature of the activities and the countries involved.
Although new nuclear plants based on advanced designs such as the AP1000 and EPR are currently being built, there remain opportunities to make design, construction and operational improvements through greater attention to materials management. New nuclear plant development provides a unique opportunity to manage materials degradation throughout the design, construction, and pre-service stages.