Nuclear energy research, development, demonstration, and deployment can help the U.S. reduce carbon emissions and bolster energy security, a new report coauthored by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Idaho National Laboratory has shown.
The report, “A Strategy for Nuclear Energy Research and Development,” outlines the research necessary to create options for the deployment of nuclear energy in the decades ahead. The report also examines nuclear energy’s relevance to nonproliferation and the need for the U.S. to maintain international leadership in developing nuclear energy—issues that must be addressed for nuclear energy to have a prominent role in meeting the nation’s future energy needs.

Because of the scale, cost, and time horizons involved, sustaining, and increasing nuclear energy’s share will require a coordinated research effort—including combining the efforts of industry and government, supported by innovation from the research community. Total funding needs from government and industry for the proposed research agenda covering the initial 2010–2015 period are estimated at $3.5 billion, the report found.

EPRI said that the study was issued as the U.S. faces unprecedented challenges in climate change and energy security. President Obama has called for a reduction of CO2 emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, with a further 80% reduction by 2050. Meeting those aggressive goals while increasing overall energy supply will require contributions from all non- and low-emitting generating technologies.

The strategic plan defines six goals to expand the safe and economical use of nuclear energy:

  • Maintain today’s nuclear fleet of light water reactors.
  • Significantly expand the fleet with advanced light water reactors.
  • Develop non-electric applications for high-temperature reactors.
  • Ensure safe, long-term used fuel management.
  • Ensure long-term nuclear sustainability.
  • Strengthen U.S. leadership internationally.

The report recommends that R&D to support these goals be focused in three technical areas: light water reactors and advanced light water reactors, high-temperature reactors, and fast reactors and advanced fuel cycles.

“This research blend will enable the country to capitalize on numerous safety and technology advances for existing light water reactors, while developing the next generation of reactors so nuclear can service a variety of process heat applications and support nuclear fuel recycling. In essence, it establishes a set of options for deployment of non-emitting nuclear energy through this century,” said EPRI’s Chris Larsen, vice president of the nuclear sector, in a press release on Tuesday.

Source: EPRI