Keywords: nuclear energy, sustainable development, Generation IV initiative, hydrogen production, nuclear desalination, higher efficiency cycles
Introduction to CEA studies on future nuclear energy systems and nuclear desalination
Nuclear energy has unique assets to meet the requirements for sustainable development in terms of economic competitiveness, safety, environmental friendliness and natural resources saving. The growth in world energy demand and future prospects of the decommissioning of existing power plants has stimulated the development of a new generation of nuclear energy systems intended to be more economically competitive, safer and more sustainable. The French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) is strongly involved in advancing nuclear energy technology to meet future energy needs. The Generation IV Initiative provides an adequate framework to organise future R&D efforts for the development of innovative nuclear systems able to meet the requirements of a sustainable energy policy in terms of economic competitiveness, safety, environmental friendliness and natural resources saving. While covering most reactor technologies, the effort of the CEA is essentially focused on the development of a three-step set of gas-cooled systems. Besides the development of new concepts, the need to provide potable water to the expanding population in arid regions is potentially an emerging application for nuclear power. Its practical implementation requires parallel efforts to develop the needed technologies and to address specific aspects of their coupling with nuclear power plants. After a short recall on the Gen IV goals for future nuclear energy systems, the paper motivates the selection of a consistent range of high temperature gas cooled modular systems as a major focus for future studies. A preliminary overview of the reference concepts for the innovative set of gas cooled nuclear systems – namely the Very-High-Temperature Reactor (VHTR) and the Gas-Cooled Fast Reactor System (GFR) is given. Finally, the CEA's activities on nuclear desalination are quickly discussed: the EURODESAL project within the 5th R&D Framework Programme of the European Union; the TUNDESAL project, which is a specific study for a Tunisian site, realised under the aegis of the IAEA and finally the AMANE project, which is conducted within a bi-lateral collaboration agreement between CEA and CNESTEN/Morocco.