Task Force on Non-Electric Applications of Nuclear Heat

Task Force on Non-Electric Applications of Nuclear Heat

Beginning in November 2020, GIF facilitated an open exchange of expert views on the position of Gen-IV systems regarding applications of nuclear fission-generated heat beyond the electric grid. These activities suggested a path forward for GIF to leverage work being conducted internationally and identify the benefits that Gen-IV reactor systems could bring to the non-electric energy sector in the context of future energy markets.

At the 51st GIF Policy Group (PG) meeting held on 20-21 May 2021, the GIF Policy Group members decided to establish a new Task Force (TF) on Non-Electric Applications of Nuclear Heat (NEANH TF), which was officially launched in October 2021 for a period of 24 months.

Definition of Non-Electric Applications of Nuclear Heat (NEANH)

The NEANH include the ensemble of solutions and processes that make optimal use of the energy produced by a nuclear fission reactor – all or part of the heat it produces over all the extent of operational temperature and power – to provide alternatives to the use of fossil fuels as a source of thermal energy, and energy services that are complementary to the electric grid. This approach is designed to optimise energy utilization efficiency, system economics, and decarbonisation.

Position Paper

To solidify the GIF position regarding the coupling of NEANH to GIF systems, a Position Paper was produced by the NEANH Task Force in collaboration with the broader GIF community. The Position Paper highlights the relevance of NEANH in the near term and in the transition to a future energy landscape. The Paper also addresses considerations, opportunities, and challenges related to coupling NEANH with Generation IV nuclear reactor systems.

  • Download the NEANH Position Paper Download pdf-icon5a   (November 2022)

The GIF position on Non-Electric Application of Nuclear Heat

To achieve energy supply security whilst meeting the constraint of net zero CO2 emissions in 2050, all potential solutions must be considered for assessment. Some of the solutions to be deployed by 2050 are still in their infancy and require further development. This need offers great opportunities for development and innovation across all energy sectors, including the nuclear industry.

The GIF signatories are convinced that Gen IV systems could and should provide diversified service offers ranging from electricity to numerous heat applications at the required large scale to achieve a significant societal impact in terms of greenhouse gas emission reduction, security of energy supply, and energy affordability.

The GIF signatories are determined to utilize their collective skills, knowledge, and expertise to propose and evaluate relevant coupling and cogeneration options for the short and medium to long term. The Task Force will identify major obstacles that may arise from the energy system combinations under consideration, contribute to their resolution, and define a portfolio of realistic, technically and economically feasible NEANH solutions coupled to Gen IV reactors to help accelerate decarbonisation.

 

A key consideration is that options to couple Gen IV reactors with non-electric applications goes far beyond solving a complex multi-criteria optimisation problem. The analyses are multi-criteria and multi-factorial (i.e., multivariable). Figure 5 illustrates the potential roles for Gen IV technologies via a 6x3x6 matrix corresponding to 6 reactor systems, 3 levels of power, and 6 NEANH process families. While the matrix shown is not fully comprehensive, this approach may be used to simplify the set of possible solutions for evaluation.

The six reactor systems refer to the technologies selected by GIF for further research and development: the Gas-cooled Fast Reactor (GFR), Lead-cooled Fast Reactor (LFR), Molten Salt Reactor (MSR), Supercritical Water-cooled Reactor (SCWR), Sodium-cooled Fast Reactor (SFR) and Very High Temperature Reactor (VHTR). The three power levels of power include grid-scale reactor technologies, small modular reactors (SMR), and micro reactors. The six applications are defined as the 6 NEANH process families.

Matrix of Gen IV reactor systems, scale, and applications to support identification of system options

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Activity and Engagement 

Under this NEANH TF, a virtual workshop was held in July 2022 to exchange knowledge and perspectives among TF and GIF members, and to align the members in advance of engaging the end-use community. This virtual workshop identified commonalities, key differences, and gaps among work being performed by participating organizations.

A full day open workshop was also held in Toronto, Canada on October 3, 2022, in conjunction with the GIF Industry Forum and co-organised by the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (IFNEC).

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NEANH Workshop, Toronto, Canada (October 3, 2022)

The primary objective of this full-day workshop on NEANH was to connect GIF to the high temperature community outside the nuclear field, but also to bring together stakeholders to establish connections between the research community and industry, engaging both nuclear technology developers and energy end users. The event was well-attended with more than 150 participants including Gen IV reactor developers, energy system modellers, industrial energy users, researchers, and other stakeholders.

  • Download the Full Proceedings of the NEANH Workshop (soon available)

Objectives of the NEANH Task Force

Building on this activity, the NEANH Task Force is currently working to advance a number of objectives to explore the opportunity for non-electric applications of Gen-IV reactor systems, including:

  • Improve the general level of knowledge of the GIF members regarding recent and ongoing research activities on NEANH coupled with Gen-IV reactor systems and ongoing research for non-electric applications using water-cooled systems that may be leveraged for Gen-IV applications.
  • Provide an expert view of the most relevant solutions deployable in short, medium, and long term.
  • Implement, with GIF and through this NEANH Task Force, a network beyond the nuclear field, and aligned with IAEA and OECD/NEA structures already in place.
  • Provide techno-economic analysis of these coupled systems considering necessary characteristics, available data, existing open-source tools, and R&D efforts to be undertaken for each of the six systems to enable coupling and licensing for nuclear heat applications.