In view of the infrequent nature of the activities of such a committee, it may be feasible for it to be established on an ad hoc basis and report directly to the NRC chairman. Therefore, the Committee recommends that such a small safety review entity be established. Before the establishment of such an activity, its charter should be carefully defined, along with a clear delineation of the classes of accidents it would investigate.
Its location in the government and its reporting channels should also be specified. The function of this group would parallel those of NTSB. Specifically, the group would conduct independent public investigations of serious incidents and accidents at nuclear power plants and would publish reports evaluating the causes of these events.
This group would have only a small administrative structure and would bring in independent experts, including those from both industry and government, to conduct its investigations. It is the Committee's opinion, based upon our experience, that responsible arrangements must be negotiated between sponsors and economic regulators to provide reasonable assurances of complete cost recovery for nuclear power plant sponsors.
Without such assurances, private investment capital is not likely to flow to this technology.
Self-assessment and peer oversight through INPO are acknowledged to be strong and effective means of improving the performance of U. Gilleland says TerraPower is in a position to start construction on a working reactor within a couple of years from now. Another disadvantage is raising amount of nuclear waste that comes from nuclear power plants. For one, it needs some original research. Nuclear Energy : What Everyone Needs?
In Chapter 2 , the Committee addressed the non-recovery of utility costs in rate proceedings and concluded that better methods of dealing with this issue must be established. The Committee believes that enactment of such legislation could remove much of the investor risk and uncertainty currently associated with state regulatory treatment of new power plant construction, and could therefore help retain nuclear power as an option for meeting U.
On balance, however, unless many states adopt this or similar legislation, it is the Committee's view that substantial assurances probably cannot be given, especially in advance of plant construction, that all costs incurred in building nuclear plants will be allowed into rate bases.
The Committee notes the current trend toward economic deregulation of electric power generation. It is presently unclear whether this trend is compatible with substantial additions of large-scale, utility-owned, baseload generating capacity, and with nuclear power plants in particular. It is the Committee's opinion, based upon our experience, that regional low-level radioactive waste compact commissions must continue to establish disposal sites.
The institutional challenges are clearly substantial. If they are to be met, the Committee believes that the Federal government must decide, as a matter of national policy, whether a strong and growing nuclear power program is vital to the economic, environmental, and strategic interests of the American people.
Only with such a clearly stated policy, enunciated by the President and backed by the Congress through appropriate statutory changes and appropriations, will it be possible to effect the institutional changes necessary to return the flow of capital and human resources required to properly employ this technology. Advanced reactors are now in design or development. They are being designed to be simpler, and, if design goals are realized, these plants will be safer than existing reactors. The design requirements for the advanced reactors are more stringent than the NRC safety goal policy.
If final safety designs of advanced reactors, and especially those with passive safety features, are as indicated to this Committee, an attractive feature of them should be the significant reduction in system complexity and corresponding improvement in operability. While difficult to quantify, the benefit of improvements in the operator 's ability to monitor the plant and respond to system degradations may well equal or exceed that of other proposed safety improvements. The Committee developed the following criteria for comparing these reactor concepts:. With regard to advanced designs, the Committee reached the following conclusions.
The large evolutionary LWRs offer the most mature technology. The first standardized design to be certified in the United States is likely to be an evolutionary LWR. The mid-sized LWRs with passive safety features are designed to be simpler, with modular construction to reduce construction times and costs, and to improve operations. They are likely the next to be certified.
Because there is no experience in building such plants, cost projections for the first plant are clearly uncertain. To reduce the economic uncertainties it will be necessary to demonstrate the construction technology and improved operating performance. These reactors differ from current reactors in construction approach, plant configuration, and safety features.
These differences do not appear so great as to require that a first plant be built for NRC certification. While a prototype in the traditional sense will not be required, the Committee concludes that no first-plant mid-sized LWR with passive safety features is likely to be certified and built without government incentives, in the form of shared funding or financial guarantees.
However, it has not entered NRC's design certification process. Commission requirements are complex and different from those in Canada so that U. The heavy water reactor is a mature design, and Canadian entry into the U. A consortium of industry and utility people continue to promote federal funding and to express interest in the concept, while none has committed to an order.
The reactor, as presently configured, is located below ground level and does not have a conventional containment. The basic rationale of the designers is that a containment is not needed because of the safety features inherent in the properties of the fuel. However, the Committee was not convinced by the presentations that the core damage frequency for the MHTGR has been demonstrated to be low enough to make a containment structure unnecessary.
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory estimates that data to confirm fuel performance will not be available before The Committee believes that reliance on the defense-in-depth concept must be retained, and accurate evaluation of safety will require evaluation of a detailed design. A demonstration plant for the MHTGR could be licensed slightly after the turn of the century, with certification following demonstration of successful operation. The construction and operation of a first plant would likely be required before design certification.
Based on the Committee 's view on containment requirements, and the economics and technology issues, the Committee judged the market potential for the MHTGR to be low. The Committee believes that no funds should be allocated for development of high-temperature gas-cooled reactor technology within the commercial nuclear power development budget of DOE. The other advanced light water designs the Committee examined were the United Kingdom and U.
The Committee believes there is no near-term U. The lack of operational and regulatory experience for these two is expected to significantly delay their acceptance by utilities. LMRs offer advantages because of their potential ability to provide a long-term energy supply through a nearly complete use of uranium resources. Were the nuclear option to be chosen, and large scale deployment follow, at some point uranium supplies at competitive prices might be exhausted.
Breeder reactors offer the possibility of extending fissionable fuel supplies well past the next century. In addition, actinides, including those from LWR spent fuel, can undergo fission without significantly affecting performance of an advanced LMR, transmuting the actinides to fission products, most of which, except for technetium, carbon, and some others of little import, have half-lives very much shorter than the actinides. Actinides are among the materials of greatest concern in nuclear waste disposal beyond about years.
However, substantial further research is required to establish 1 the technical and the economic feasibility of recycling in LMRs actinides recovered from LWR spent fuel, and 2 whether high-recovery recycling of transuranics and their transmutation can, in fact, benefit waste disposal. Assuming success, it would still be necessary to dispose of high-level waste, although the waste would largely consist of significantly shorter-lived fission products.
Special attention will be necessary to ensure that the LMR's reprocessing facilities are not vulnerable to sabotage or to theft of plutonium. The unique property of the LMR, fuel breeding, might lead to a U. From the viewpoint of commercial licensing, it is far behind the evolutionary and mid-sized LWRs with passive safety features in having a commercial design available for review.
A federally funded program, including one or more first plants, will be required before any LMR concept would be accepted by U. The Committee could not make any meaningful quantitative comparison of the relative safety of the various advanced reactor designs.
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The Committee believes that each of the concepts considered can be designed and operated to meet or closely approach the safety objectives currently proposed for future, advanced LWRs. The different advanced reactor designs employ different mixes of active and passive safety features. The Committee believes that there currently is no single optimal approach to improved safety.
Dependence on passive safety features does not, of itself, ensure greater safety. The Committee believes that a prudent design course retains the historical defense-in-depth approach. The economic projections are highly uncertain, first, because past experience suggests higher costs, longer construction times, and lower availabilities than projected and, second, because of different assumptions and levels of maturity among the designs.
The Electric Power Research Institute EPRI data, which the Committee believes to be more reliable than that of the vendors, indicate that the large evolutionary LWRs are likely to be the least costly to build and operate on a cost per kilowatt electric or kilowatt hour basis, while the high-temperature gas-cooled reactors and LMRs are likely to be the most expensive. Although there are definite differences in the fuel cycle characteristics of the advanced reactors, fuel cycle considerations did not offer much in the way of discrimination among reactors, nor did safeguards and security considerations, particularly for deployment in the United States.
The development required for commercialization of any of these concepts is substantial. It is the Committee's overall assessment that the large evolutionary LWRs and the mid-sized LWRs with passive safety features rank highest relative to the Committee 's evaluation criteria.
The evolutionary reactors could be ready for deployment by , and the mid-sized could be ready for initial plant construction soon after The Committee's evaluations and overall assessment are summarized in Figure This table is an attempt to summarize the Committee's qualitative rankings of selected reactor types against each other , without reference either to an absolute standard or to the performance of any other energy resource options, This evaluation was based on the Committee's professional judgment.
Safety and cost are the most important characteristics for future nuclear power plants. LWRs of the large evolutionary and the mid-sized advanced designs offer the best potential for competitive costs in that order. Safety benefits among all reactor types appear to be about equal at this stage in the design process.
Safety must be achieved by attention to all failure modes and levels of design by a multiplicity of safety barriers and features. Consequently, in the absence of detailed engineering design and because of the lack of construction and operating experience with the actual concepts, vendor claims of safety superiority among conceptual designs cannot be substantiated. LWRs can be deployed to meet electricity production needs for the first quarter of the next century:.
The evolutionary LWRs are further developed and, because of international projects, are most complete in design. They are likely to be the first plants certified by NRC. They are expected to be the first of the advanced reactors available for commercial use and could operate in the to time frame. Compared to current reactors, significant improvements in safety appear likely.
Compared to recently completed high-cost reactors, significant improvements also appear possible in cost if institutional barriers are resolved. While little or no federal funding is deemed necessary to complete the process, such funding could accelerate the process. Because of the large size and capital investment of evolutionary reactors, utilities that might order nuclear plants may be reluctant to do so.
If nuclear power plants are to be available to a broader range of potential U.
These reactors are progressing in their designs, through DOE and industry funding, toward certification in the to time frame. The Committee believes such funding will be necessary to complete the process.