Nuclear power planning and implementation
The emphasis in the nuclear power programme in 1996 was on information exchange and assistance to Member States. The Agency continued to give advice in the field of nuclear power plant planning and implementation, with technical assistance supplied to 17 Member States. The Power Reactor Information System (PRIS) database was made available on the Internet, providing easier access to this information resource for the statistical analysis of nuclear power plant performance indicators. Results from an 'Options Identification Programme' - a study on seawater desalination using nuclear energy, undertaken in response to a General Conference resolution - were published. The Agency's 16th Fusion Energy conference, held in Montreal, Canada, provided the opportunity for a review of the status of research and of recent progress in relation to the various fusion reactor concepts.
In 1996, assistance was provided to Belarus, Brazil, Colombia, Pakistan, Peru, Poland and Romania to assess the role of nuclear power in the future expansion of electricity supply systems, with due account being taken of technical, economic and environmental issues. In addition, assistance was given to Albania, Armenia, Estonia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Latvia, Lithuania, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Slovakia and Viet Nam in defining a framework for technical co-operation projects in energy, electricity and nuclear power planning. Technical support also continued to be provided to Indonesia in nuclear power feasibility studies, financial analysis of electricity system expansion programmes and the economic evaluation of bids for nuclear power plants.
In support of its technical assistance activities, the Agency has developed a number of computer models which can be used as tools for an integrated approach to energy, electricity and nuclear power planning. Efforts continued to improve and update these models in the light of feedback from users and to provide recipients of the models with the latest versions. Expert advice from consultants was used to incorporate improvements in the Agency's BIDEVAL software on the economic evaluation of bids for nuclear power plants, taking into account methodological and software advances over the last ten years.
A technical report entitled Policy Issues for a Nuclear Power Programme was prepared to assist decision makers in developing Member States who wish to consider, or who have decided to implement, a nuclear power programme. The report highlights areas where policy decisions are required, the options which are available and the context in which they should be considered.
Support continued to be provided to Member States on upgrading and maintaining nuclear power personnel qualifications and competence through the application of the systematic approach to training (SAT). Two technical documents, the IAEA World Survey on Nuclear Power Plant Personnel Training and the IAEA Handbook for the Development, Conduct and Evaluation of IAEA Training Activities Related to Nuclear Power were prepared during 1996. The world survey, covering 23 Member States, provides information on: training systems, organizations, programmes and facilities; the role of management and the resources provided for training; training facilities and programmes which could be made available to other Member States; and contact persons in Member States.
While the extent of application of formal quality assurance principles to the activities of regulatory organizations varies widely among Member States, increasing attention is being paid to this area in many parts of the world. In response, the Agency produced a technical document identifying typical problems in the performance of regulatory activities and the benefits and constraints associated with the application of quality assurance principles to these activities.
Computerized operator support systems using fast, 'intelligent' data processing capabilities are used in nuclear power plants to improve productivity, reliability and operational safety. The first version of a database on operator support systems (OSSDB) was completed in 1996 and distributed to nuclear power plants, design organizations and other interested national institutions. The system has adequate flexibility to satisfy the needs of a wide spectrum of users.
The first version of a software package for the International Database on Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV) Materials was completed and distributed to the eight participating Member States. The first set of inputs include about 1500 items of data on RPV material properties. This software is a part of the International Database on Nuclear Power Plant Life Management. The data will be helpful in the analysis and characterization of changes in RPV material properties during reactor operation in order to assess RPV integrity.
A CRP initiated in 1989 on life management of the RPV primary nozzle was completed. The work programme included a pilot study on the implementation of the existing methodology for life management and was carried out in two phases. Phase I reviewed the current understanding of the ageing process for four selected components, methods for monitoring the process, measures to mitigate its consequences, identification of gaps in knowledge and technology and formulation of follow-up work for the next phase. Phase II dealt with the life management of the RPV primary nozzle. These studies have made it easier to identify different factors affecting primary nozzle performance which are also applicable to other nozzles with similar design features. This is of interest to designers, researchers and regulators.
A new version of the Agency's PRIS database, called PRIS-PC, which was made available on-line in 1995 for direct access through the public telephone network, also became accessible on the Internet. Micro-PRIS, a subset of the PRIS database, is also distributed through the Agency's Home Page on the Internet. The number of PRIS users in 54 Member States and 8 international organizations has increased to 280, representing a growth of 25% over the previous year. A database and a technical document covering country data on the energy and economic situation, a forecast of nuclear energy utilization and the main organizations and institutions related to the nuclear industry, were prepared and will be published in 1997.
The main activities dealing with small and medium size reactors (SMRs) in 1996 included a second Advisory Group meeting on the status and introduction of SMRs in developing countries, held in Tunis, in September. The meeting reviewed the design and development status of SMRs, the lessons learned from their introduction in developing countries, and their market potential. It was emphasized that a strong technical and organizational infrastructure, with qualified personnel, industrial support and financial resources, is one of the most important requirements for the introduction of nuclear power. A review of the market potential of SMRs led to the conclusion that they will be deployed primarily in countries which have already started nuclear projects, in particular in countries which have developed SMR designs themselves. The overall market is estimated at about 70-80 units to be implemented up to the year 2015. About one-third of the SMRs are expected to supply heat or electricity or both to integrated seawater desalination plants.
To assist in training, software was developed to simulate the behaviour of current and advanced reactors, PWRs, BWRs and HWRs on a personal computer. This software and a technical document, comprising the training and user manuals, will be available in early 1997.
The Agency continued to play a role as an international forum for the exchange of scientific and technical information on advances in LWRs and HWRs. In 1996, a status report on advanced LWR designs was prepared. Under a CRP, a database of thermophysical properties for a broad spectrum of LWR and HWR materials over a wide range of temperatures was developed. In another CRP, the Agency is establishing a consistent set of relationships which can be used to analyse the thermohydraulic performance of advanced water cooled reactors, since accurate information is required for reactor design and performance studies.
Highlights of liquid metal cooled fast reactor (LMFR) development in 1996 were: stable operation at a power of ~1000 MW(e) of Superphénix, the first large demonstration fast reactor in France; 16 years of commercial operation of the 600 MW(e) BN-600 in the Russian Federation; operation of the BN-350 in Kazakstan to generate nuclear heat for seawater desalination and electricity production; and the successful continuation of fast reactor programmes in China, India and the Republic of Korea.
Development programmes for gas cooled reactors continue in a number of Member States, with additional interest being focused on this technology as the result of its potential as a high temperature energy source for a wide range of process heat applications. In this context, Eskom, the state electric utility of South Africa, is evaluating the use of the high temperature reactor (HTR) for the generation of electricity through the application of a closed cycle gas turbine power conversion system. The National Atomic Energy Agency of Indonesia is investigating the HTR as an energy source for co-generation application in the development of gas and oil resources. The high temperature engineering test reactor (HTTR) and the HTR-10 are under construction in Japan and China, respectively, for testing the high temperature heat applications of nuclear power. In 1996, a technical co-operation programme was initiated with BATAN, in Indonesia, on the feasibility of the HTR for the production of methanol and fresh water.
In 1994, in response to the interest of Member States in a possible demonstration facility for seawater desalination using nuclear energy, the Agency initiated a new two year Options Identification Programme with the aim of selecting a limited set of practical options for demonstration projects. This programme has now been completed and a report was submitted to the 40th session of the General Conference. A few nuclear coupled desalination plants have been selected as practical candidates for demonstration projects. The two types of plants to be tested are: a reverse osmosis desalination process coupled to an existing or newly built medium size water cooled reactor, and a multi-effect distillation process coupled to a small size reactor in the 20-50 MW(e) range. In accordance with a resolution of the General Conference, preparatory work for further study of this subject began.
The Agency's 16th Fusion Energy conference was held in October in Montreal, Canada. There was significant interest in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor Engineering Design Activity (ITER EDA). New results included: confinement enhancement with the 'reversed shear mode' of tokamak operation; encouraging prospects for low aspect ratio tokamaks; and good progress in inertial fusion research, stellarators and other alternative fusion concepts.
Experts from Argentina, Brazil, China, the Czech Republic, Egypt, India, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Israel, the Republic of Korea, Pakistan and Poland met in Vienna to advise the Agency on ways to enhance the effectiveness of fusion related activities in Member States that do not have major fusion research programmes. Participants in this Advisory Group meeting discussed the current status of research in those countries and made recommendations for future work, including: efforts to increase the awareness of fusion research; better interaction with larger laboratories; the establishment of a network of regional plasma centres; and more effective CRPs.
A new CRP on engineering, industrial and environmental applications of plasma physics and fusion technologies was initiated. The research topics include: plasma assisted surface engineering for surface property enhancement; plasma technologies for hazardous waste remediation; and studies to broaden the required experimental database. This CRP will benefit plasma research, strengthen co-operation between developed and developing Member States and help to commercialize plasma and fusion technologies in developing Member States.
The ITER EDA, conducted jointly by EURATOM and the Governments of Japan, the Russian Federation and the USA, under the auspices of the Agency, prepared a Detailed Design Report, which reflects progress made towards design integration at the system and plant levels, and the Non-Site-Specific Safety Report-1, containing the results of an environmental and safety assessment of the current ITER design. The safety report provides confidence that ITER can be constructed and operated safely, with a favourable environmental impact. The Agency provided atomic and molecular physics database information to the ITER project and published the ITER Monthly Newsletter as well as ITER administrative and technical documents.