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The Power to Reduce CO2 Emissions: The Full Portfolio

What the U.S. electricity sector must do to significantly reduce CO2 emissions in coming decades.

Fortnightly Magazine - October 2007

of primary energy resources often are far from load centers, requiring additional transmission infrastructure. Through advanced transmission systems, novel materials, and advanced power electronics, the transmission infrastructure can be adapted for increased renewable energy generation.

Key research milestones and deployment targets include:

• By the mid-2020s, incorporate novel superconducting materials into a “supercable” that provides a low-loss transmission medium and an energy storage medium that can also be used for low-emission transportation applications.

• By the late 2020s, develop high-voltage direct current systems incorporating power electronics controllers that could be used to increase the use of off-shore wind farms.

Challenge 3: New Nuclear Installations

Nuclear power’s contribution to CO 2 emissions reductions hinges on the continued safe and economic performance of the existing fleet, which currently accounts for 73 percent of the emission-free generation in the United States. Nuclear power is the only technologically mature non-emitting generation source that is proven and already deployed on a large scale. Nuclear energy’s R&D needs, therefore, span both the current fleet and new plant construction.

Technology development pathways are described below for the nuclear technologies that will enable nuclear power to sustain and extend its contributions to emission-free power generation.

Light Water Reactors (LWR)

The near-term technology needs for nuclear energy in the United States relate to light water reactor (LWR) technology, which is the technology used in more than 80 percent of the world’s current reactors. Existing U.S. plants have operated for 12 to 38 years, and almost half of the current fleet received their operating licenses between 1980 and 1995. Sustaining electricity production from these plants is critical to national efforts aimed at significant CO 2 reductions.

Key research milestones and deployment targets include:

• By 2016, ensure that all existing plants have been granted a 20-year life extension.

• By 2030, expand the application of digital control technology in both safety and plant control applications.

• By 2030, develop a new generation of highly reliable, high burnup nuclear fuel, capable of longer outage cycles and significantly reduced volumes of spent fuel.

Advanced Light Water Reactors (ALWR)

After more than two decades of investment in design development and pre-licensing, ALWR designs are approaching “essentially complete design” status. Some ALWRs are in commercial operation or under construction today in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, France, and Finland. In the United States, 15 utilities have stated their intent to file a combined license application based on ALWR designs. Although ALWR technology is available today, projections for earliest commercial operations of an ALWR in the United States are in the 2015 time frame because of time required for licensing and construction. The RD&D focus is to build upon existing designs and programs, such as the U.S. DOE’s NP-2010, to enable completion of the detailed engineering necessary for detailed ALWR cost estimates and plant construction. Additional RD&D will ensure that ALWRs perform at high levels of safety, capacity factor, and reliability, comparable with levels now achieved in the existing fleet.

Key research milestones and deployment targets include:

• By 2011, resolve remaining ALWR generic regulatory issues—including instrumentation and control