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  • Chapter 6: Addressing the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Internationalizing Enrichment Services and Solving the Problem of Spent-Fuel Storage - American Academy of Arts & Sciences
    fuel are designed to serve as safety nets to enhance confidence for countries that rely on the commercial market for nuclear fuel and to reduce pressure to pursue indigenous sensitive fuel cycle facilities The Obama administration strongly supports the creation of these safety nets Looking to the future a more ambitious and controversial approach would be to create internationally controlled enrichment centers Proponents envision international control as a way to provide reliable fuel supply services without putting sensitive enrichment technology in the hands of more countries This idea however has its own set of problems including questions concerning how an international organization would manage safety regulation make export control decisions raise the immense funding required gain access to competitive technology and maintain security of enrichment technology The disastrous loss of URENCO centrifuge technology and proliferation of that know how illustrates the potential problem of maintaining technology security in multinational organizations There are also questions of how to integrate international enrichment centers with the existing commercial market New international suppliers could add diversity but we do not want to disrupt the commercial market which is working well today and provides a strong incentive not to pursue indigenous enrichment The interrelationship between commercial enrichment enterprises and international centers could become complex if as seems likely commercial enterprises provide the technology and operating facilities for international centers on a black box basis Whether internationally controlled enrichment centers represent a creative idea somewhat ahead of its time remains to be seen In parallel with these multilateral efforts the United States is using bilateral nuclear cooperation to build mutual confidence and to welcome decisions to abstain from indigenous enrichment and reprocessing We have signed bilateral memoranda of understanding with Jordan the United Arab Emirates Saudi Arabia and Bahrain that express their intention to rely on international markets rather than enrichment and reprocessing on their territories As a matter of policy we will continue to encourage states to take advantage of the international fuel market and to welcome decisions to refrain from enrichment and reprocessing by states that do not have these capabilities We believe there is great value in having the U S government and U S industry deeply involved in the nuclear programs of developing countries to help create high standards for safety and security and nonproliferation For exports of U S nuclear technology this requires conclusion of Agreements for Nuclear Cooperation so called 123 agreements As an example of the importance we attach to these issues I recently traveled to Amman to work with the government of Jordan to develop a path forward on a 123 agreement By law 123 agreements are sent to Congress for review It is therefore a joint responsibility of the administration and the Congress to take account of the particular situation of each country and region in developing agreements that enable the deep involvement of U S industry and not leave the field entirely to others who may not share our nonproliferation standards Let me now turn to

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  • Contributors - American Academy of Arts & Sciences
    of Planning and Special Studies at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory His career with the Department of Energy spanned more than two decades he has managed many policies and programs that advance nuclear power and issues associated with security waste management and public trust He is the Research Coordinator for the American Academy s Initiative on the Global Nuclear Future Charles McCombie is Executive Director of Arius the Association for Regional and International Underground Storage and is also a consultant to various national waste management programs and international organizations Previously he was Director of Science Technology at Nagra the National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Wastes in Switzerland He was Vice Chairman of the Board of Radioactive Waste Management of the National Academies in the United States He is the author of over two hundred papers and of the book Principles and Standards for the Disposal of Long Lived Radio active Wastes with Neil Chapman 2003 Tariq Rauf is Head of Verification and Security Policy Coordination at the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA He joined the IAEA in 2002 after serving as the Director of the International Organizations and Nonproliferation Program at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies Monterey Institute of International Studies Previously he served as an Advisor and Non Proliferation Expert to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in Canada He has been a Non Proliferation Expert to the Canadian Delegation to NPT Conferences and a Senior Associate at the Canadian Center for Global Security the Canadian Center for Arms Control and Disarmament in Ottawa Atsuyuki Suzuki is Professor of Nuclear Engineering Emeritus at the University of Tokyo he is also Chairman of the Nuclear Safety Commission in Japan He is a member of the Scientific Council of Japan and

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  • Nuclear power without nuclear proliferation - American Academy of Arts & Sciences
    energy technologies what matters is the overall global reduction in carbon emissions With respect to the safety and security dimensions of the nuclear future however it will matter greatly which states acquire what kinds of nuclear technology Thus there are three broad reasons to be concerned about an unconstrained spread of nuclear power to new nations that have not previously managed the technology Figure 1 Expansion versus Spread Existing and Aspiring Nuclear Power States Americas Western Europe Eastern Europe Central and South Asia East Asia Oceania Middle East Africa Existing Nuclear Power States Argentina Brazil Canada United States Mexico Existing Nuclear Power States Belgium Finland France Germany Netherlands Spain Sweden Switzerland United Kingdom Existing Nuclear Power States Armenia Bulgaria Czech Republic Hungary Lithuania Romania Russia Slovakia Slovenia Ukraine Existing Nuclear Power States India Pakistan Existing Nuclear Power States China Japan Korea Existing Nuclear Power States Iran Existing Nuclear Power States South Africa Aspiring Nuclear Power States Bolivia Chile Dominican Republic El Salvador Haiti Jamaica Peru Uruguay Venezuela Aspiring Nuclear Power States Belarus Croatia Estonia Greece Latvia Poland Aspiring Nuclear Power States Bangladesh Georgia Kazakhstan Mongolia Sir Lanka Aspiring Nuclear Power States Indonesia Malaysia Myanmar Philippines Singapore Thailand Vietnam Aspiring Nuclear Power States Bahrain Egypt Israel Jordan Kuwait Oman Qatar Saudi Arabia Syria Turkey UAE Yemen Aspiring Nuclear Power States Algeria Ghana Kenya Libya Morocco Namibia Nigeria Senegal Sudan Tanzania Tunisia Sources IAEA Power Reactor Information System www iaea org programmes a2 Frank N von Hippel ed The Uncertain Future of Fission Power review draft www fissilematerials org Polity IV Project Political Regime Characteristics and Transitions 1800 2007 http www systemicpeace org inscr inscr htm Figure Scott D Sagan First for nuclear energy programs to be developed and managed safely and securely it is important that states have domestic good governance characteristics that will encourage proper nuclear operations and management These characteristics include low degrees of corruption to avoid officials selling materials and technology for their own personal gain as occurred with the A Q Khan smuggling network in Pakistan high degrees of political stability defined by the World Bank as likelihood that the government will be destabilized or overthrown by unconstitutional or violent means including politically motivated violence and terrorism high governmental effectiveness scores a World Bank aggregate measure of the quality of the civil service and the degree of its independence from political pressures and the quality of policy formulation and implementation and a strong degree of regulatory competence Fortunately we have a great deal of information measuring these domestic good governance factors across the globe Unfortunately the data highlight the grave security challenges that would be created if there were rampant proliferation of nuclear energy production facilities to each and every state that has expressed interest to the IAEA in acquiring nuclear power The World Bank publishes annual aggregate data derived from multiple sources on each of these good governance characteristics and as shown in Figure 2 the average scores of the potential new nuclear energy states on each of these dimensions is significantly lower than the scores of states already possessing nuclear energy Second all NNWS under the NPT must accept IAEA safeguards inspections on their nuclear power facilities in order to reduce the danger that governments might cheat on their commitments not to use the technology to acquire nuclear weapons therefore it is illuminating to examine the historical record of NNWS violating their NPT commitments Here there is one very important finding about how domestic political characteristics influence the behavior of NPT members each known or strongly suspected case of a government starting a secret nuclear weapons program while it was a member of the NPT and thus violating its Article II NPT commitment was undertaken by a non democratic government 2 The confirmed or suspected historical cases of NPT member states starting nuclear weapons programs in violation of their Treaty commitments include North and South Korea Libya Iraq Yugoslavia Taiwan Iran and Syria all of which were non democratic at the time in question It is therefore worrisome that as Figure 2 shows the group of potential new states seeking nuclear power capabilities is on average significantly less democratic than the list of existing states with nuclear energy capabilities Figure 2 Governance Corruption and Democracy Measurement for Democracy Score is mean Polity IV score on a 100 point scale Sources World Bank World Governance Indicators 1996 2007 info worldbank org governance wgi index asp Polity IV Project Political Regime Characteristics and Transitions 1800 2007 www systemicpeace org inscr inscr htm Figure Scott D Sagan Third states that face significant terrorist threats from within face particular challenges in ensuring that there is no successful terrorist attack on a nuclear facility or no terrorist theft of fissile material to make a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb Figure 3 displays data from the United States Counterterrorism Center comparing the five year totals of terrorism incidents in the existing states that have nuclear power facilities and the iaea list of aspiring states India and Pakistan both of which have nuclear weapons and nuclear power facilities and which face severe terrorist threats from homegrown and outsider terrorist organizations clearly lead the pack But as Figure 3 shows the states that are exploring developing nuclear power would take up six of the slots on a terrorist top ten risk list if each of them develops civilian nuclear power in the future Figure 3 Nuclear Power and Terrorism Incidents of terrorism in past five years current nuclear power states Incidents of terrorism in past five years current and aspiring nuclear power states India 4 462 India 4 462 Pakistan 3 687 Pakistan 3 687 Russia 1 302 Thailand 3 301 Spain 313 Israel 2 775 France 277 Russia 1 302 United Kingdom 220 Philippines 1 061 Iran 56 Sri Lanka 702 China 31 Turkey 403 Mexico 29 Algeria 327 Ukraine 25 Spain 313 Asterisk denotes aspiring nuclear power state Source Worldwide Incidents Tracking System National Counterterrorism Center NCTC http wits nctc gov Main do Figure Scott D Sagan These figures clearly represent worst case estimates about the security implications of the spread of nuclear power for as a number of authors in these volumes note many of the aspiring states will not be able to progress with nuclear power development programs any time soon due to financial or other constraints Indeed most of the growth in nuclear power over the coming decade is likely to come from new plants in states that already operate nuclear power plants But the figures do dramatically highlight the intertwined political technical and economic challenges we face if the world is to see both the expansion and spread of the use of nuclear power on a global scale It seems almost certain that some new entrants to nuclear power will emerge in the coming decades and that the organizational and political challenges to ensure the safe and secure spread of nuclear technology into the developing world will be substantial and potentially grave The proposals in these two volumes for international control of the fuel cycle for sharing best practices for physical security and for enhancing the international nuclear safety regime are designed to mitigate the inherent security risks that the nuclear renaissance will bring The essays collected in these two volumes of Dædalus focus on three broad interlocking subjects nuclear power nuclear disarmament and nuclear proliferation The new nuclear order that will emerge years hence will be the result of the interplay of state motives for pursuing nuclear power and constraints on that pursuit Contributors to the volumes consider in detail the changing technical economic and environmental factors that are making nuclear power seem more attractive around the globe But they also address factors inhibiting the growth of nuclear power enormous capital costs the need for public subsidies limited industrial capacity to build power plants inadequate electricity grids the possible emergence of alternative energy technologies concern about the cost and risks associated with nuclear wastes public fear of nuclear technology as well as concern about the security risks created by the possible spread of weapons usable nuclear technologies When the constraints are taken into account it may well be that the spread of nuclear power will be neither as fast nor as extensive as many anticipate 3 Nevertheless some expansion and spread seems inevitable and accordingly these volumes consider the standards for safety and physical protection that must be met to reduce the risks that could emerge along with the spread of civilian nuclear power capacity Concerns about proliferation whether to states or terrorists arise at the intersection of nuclear power and nuclear weapons Indeed the connection between power and weapons is somewhat inevitable because key technologies in the nuclear sector notably uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing capabilities are relevant to both In the nonproliferation context this is the dual use dilemma many technologies associated with the creation of a nuclear power program can be used to make weapons if a state chooses to do so When a state seems motivated to acquire nuclear weapons a nuclear power program in that state can appear to be simply a route leading to the bomb or a public annex to a secret bomb program The crisis over Iran s nuclear activities is a case in point Depending on what capabilities spread to which states especially regarding uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing a world of widely spread nuclear technologies could be a world in which more states like Iran would have the latent capability to manufacture nuclear weapons This could easily be a world filled with much more worry about the risk of nuclear proliferation and worse a world where more states possess nuclear weapons A fundamental goal for American and global security is to minimize the proliferation risks associated with the expansion of nuclear power If this development is poorly managed or efforts to contain risks are unsuccessful the nuclear future will be dangerous What can be done to limit future proliferation risks The contributors to these volumes explore two fundamental answers to that question First some authors discuss policies that could create a world in which the incentives to acquire nuclear weapons are minimized If nuclear weapons remain the currency of the realm if they are the ticket to the high table of international politics if they are believed to confer enormous diplomatic and security benefits if the existing NWS insist on the necessity to retain their nuclear weapons for the indefinite future then it will be very difficult over the long run to make the case that for all other states nuclear weapons are unnecessary and undesirable On the other hand the context for future nuclear decision making will be very different if that context is a world where nuclear weapons are being devalued and marginalized and where the NWS are reducing their arsenals and perhaps even heading meaningfully in the direction of eliminating nuclear weapons altogether This is why the nuclear disarmament debate comes into play in considering the future global nuclear order The disarmament nonproliferation connection is formally codified in the famous Article VI of the NPT which calls for the NWS and all other states to make good faith efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament Under the general rubric of arms control work over several decades has gone toward efforts to regulate constrain reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons efforts that have helped contain the dangers of nuclear rivalry Nevertheless and despite their obligations under Article VI and their repeated rhetorical commitments to nuclear disarmament the NWS have not in the opinion of many observers moved genuinely and significantly in the direction of nuclear disarmament 4 Indeed there have been multiple statements by some government officials in NWS that suggest that they are firmly committed to keeping nuclear weapons indefinitely and the failure of the U S Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty CTBT and help bring that Treaty into force opens up the prospect of testing new nuclear weapons in the future The result has been growing dissatisfaction among many key NNWS about the failure of the NWS to live up to their NPT obligations recurrent acrimonious collisions over Article VI at NPT review conferences mounting frustration with and disaffection from the NPT regime and a consequent protracted inability to address other key NPT issues in a constructive fashion From the perspective of many NNWS Article VI was one of the core bargains of the NPT and the weapons states are simply not living up to their end of the bargain The current debate over nuclear disarmament is crucial to the evolution of the global nuclear order for two reasons One way or the other the debate will influence future incentives to acquire nuclear weapons and it will have significant implications in terms of preserving effectively managing and strengthening the NPT regime It is therefore very important that nuclear disarmament has now made it onto the public and policy agenda in a prominent way having been galvanized by the efforts of four distinguished American statesmen and reinforced by President Obama s remarkable embrace of the nuclear disarmament objective in his speech in Prague in April 2009 5 It is generally understood that nuclear disarmament is a long term goal not an immediate policy objective Yet much can be done in the interim to constrain nuclear forces and reduce their role in international politics such steps can help to address the concerns that have commonly arisen in the nonproliferation context The origins rationale meaning and prospects of nuclear disarmament are therefore addressed in these volumes of Dædalus Future proliferation risks can also be limited in a second fundamental way by preserving and improving the nonproliferation regime that system of rules and institutions that is meant to allow the use of civilian nuclear power while providing reassurance against the use of nuclear technology for weapons purposes As the protracted nuclear crises of recent decades Iraq Iran North Korea have shown the system is not perfect or foolproof even today But looking to the future will the nonproliferation regime be adequate in a world where there is more nuclear knowledge and technology spread across more states The essays collected in the second volume confront that question Some of the essays explore various ways in which the nonproliferation regime could be improved transparency could be enhanced safeguards bolstered the IAEA further empowered to monitor nuclear programs and explore suspicious activities NPT rules can be more uniformly and universally enforced with exceptions like the U S India nuclear deal not permitted The nuclear fuel cycle can be organized in a way that minimizes the spread of sensitive dual use technology various schemes for assuring fuel supplies could reduce the need and incentive for individual states to acquire enrichment capabilities for example Any fuel cycle arrangement or agreed norm that limits the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technology will greatly circumscribe the proliferation risks associated with expanded nuclear power It would also be desirable to find more effective methods of enforcement when instances of noncompliance are discovered These ideas and more are examined in volume two But the NPT is a nearly global regime all but four states are members Israel India and Pakistan never joined and North Korea withdrew in 2003 and none of the ideas for improving the regime will be feasible if they do not inspire wide assent among NPT members The regime therefore must be considered from a diverse set of national perspectives in order to gauge what steps might be possible and what constraints will need to be addressed in order to adapt the nonproliferation regime to the emerging global nuclear order It is far from certain that key NNWS will share the diagnoses and support the remedies preferred by the Western nonproliferation community 6 The essays in these Dædalus volumes address these contrasting perspectives and the decision to include authors from multiple NWS and NNWS was designed to ensure that the analysis does not suffer from American centric or NWS biases The growth and spread of nuclear power raises a set of concerns about the risk of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism working on the problem of nuclear proliferation raises the issue of nuclear disarmament These topics do not completely overlap but it is not possible to think comprehensively about the future of the global nuclear order without considering them together and without appreciating the extent to which they are interrelated This two volume special issue of Dædalus represents the fourth time that the American Academy has dedicated its journal to issues concerning arms control and nuclear weapons Special issues were published on Arms Control in 1960 on Arms Defense and Arms Control in 1975 and on Arms Control Thirty Years On in 1991 It is valuable to look back on the articles in these volumes and the strategic issues upon which they focused in order to appreciate the significant successes that have occurred in the past as well as to understand the enduring nature of many of the problems we face and the novelty of some emerging challenges The 1960 volume a product of a special summer study at the American Academy is widely recognized as a seminal contribution to the development of arms control as a tool to reduce the danger of nuclear war and to manage Soviet U S relations Indeed it has been called the Bible of arms control and the Cambridge school has been credited with identifying and promoting three key insights that helped maintain nuclear peace during the height of Cold War tensions 7 First the authors strongly argued for the creation of a high threshold between conventional military forces and nuclear forces in stark contrast to the earlier plans developed during the Eisenhower administration to use nuclear weapons earlier in any conflict with the Soviet Union or the People s Republic of China the so called Massive Retaliation doctrine Second while the Dædalus authors cannot be credited with being the first to identify the maintenance of

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  • The growth of nuclear power: drivers & constraints - American Academy of Arts & Sciences
    the domestic fossil endowment For countries with no fossil fuels nuclear is also cited as a form of insurance against supply or price disruptions And in most countries as we have already noted climate change is a driver of the renewed interest in the nuclear energy option That is certainly true of the United States where the current talk of a nuclear energy renaissance would surely be more muted were it not for concerns over greenhouse gas emissions Many climate scientists have concluded that the worst risks of climate change might be avoidable if the atmospheric concentration of CO 2 can be kept below 550 parts per million ppm or roughly twice the pre industrial level The current CO 2 concentration is about 380 ppm with smaller amounts of other more potent greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide adding another 70 ppm of CO 2 equivalent Emissions of greenhouse gases GHGs continue to rise and the total GHG concentration is increasing at an accelerating rate currently somewhere between 2 and 3 ppm per year 3 In its latest assessment the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC has estimated that a doubling of the atmospheric concentration of GHGs relative to the preindustrial level would eventually after a few centuries cause an increase in the globally averaged surface temperature that most likely would fall in the range of 2 to 4 5 C with a 50 percent probability of remaining below 3 C and a small but significant probability of exceeding 5 C These are globally averaged figures and expected temperature changes in large areas of the world would be substantially greater accompanied by substantially greater local fluctuations 4 Some analysts weighing the risks involved have concluded that a 550 ppm limit on CO 2 concentration corresponding to a total GHG concentration of about 670 ppm would go beyond the bounds of rational risk taking and advocate a more restrictive limit The European Union has adopted the goal of capping the expected equilibrium global average temperature at 2 C corresponding to a stabilized GHG concentration of about 450 ppm CO 2 equivalent Since this level has already been reached although the offsetting effect of aerosol cooling lowers the effective GHG concentration to about 380 ppm the EU goal is extraordinarily ambitious and almost certainly unrealistic Most policy level discussions are currently focused on CO 2 stabilization targets in the 450 to 550 ppm range even though the scientific consensus is that significant ecological and economic damage is very likely at such levels Yet even the upper end of this range will be extremely difficult to achieve The world relies on fossil fuels for more than 80 percent of its primary energy supplies today and under business as usual conditions annual energy related CO 2 emissions which account for a large fraction of the world s GHG emissions would likely increase threefold by the end of this century 5 This in turn would imply atmospheric CO 2 concentrations in the 700 to 900 ppm range by the year 2100 with the expected global average temperature increase eventually exceeding 6 C There is thus a large gap between business as usual projections and what will be required to reduce the risk of climate change To remain below the limit of 550 ppm global emissions would have to peak in the next 10 to 20 years and then fall to a level well below year 2000 emissions Equity considerations will require that wealthy countries accept higher targets for emissions cuts than poor countries and several recent reports have advocated reductions of 60 to 80 percent in the advanced countries by the year 2050 President Obama recently called for a reduction in U S carbon emissions of more than 80 percent by the year 2050 Such cuts are likely to require even greater reductions in the power sector because in other sectors the maximum achievable reductions may be smaller A key question here will center on the transportation sector and how rapidly that sector can be weaned off liquid fossil fuels via some combination of renewable advanced biofuels and hybrid or electric vehicles Stabilizing the CO 2 concentration in the 450 to 550 ppm range will require rapid large scale decarbonization of the global energy supply system beginning in effect immediately combined with vigorous and continuing worldwide improvements in the efficiency of energy use The longer the delay in embarking on this path the more difficult it will be to achieve the end goal Because carbon dioxide molecules released into the atmosphere stay there for about a century on average a ton of carbon emitted today will have roughly the same effect as a ton emitted at any time over the next several decades So it is appropriate to think of a global intergenerational budget of carbon emissions that corresponds to a given stabilization target The more of the emissions budget that is used up in the near term the steeper and more painful the cutbacks in emissions will have to be in later years What happens during the next few decades is therefore likely to be decisive If by the end of this period the link between economic activity and carbon emissions has not been broken and if significant progress toward decarbonization of global energy supplies has not been made the world will have lost almost all chance of avoiding serious and perhaps catastrophic damage from global climate change It is also important to recognize that we will not be bailed out in this time frame by laboratory breakthroughs that have yet to be made Most of the heavy lifting during the next few decades will have to come from low carbon energy systems whose attributes are already fairly well understood if not yet commercialized Current trends are not encouraging In the first half of this decade the carbon intensity of the global energy supply system actually increased reversing an earlier declining trend 6 Extraordinary efforts will be required to achieve significant decarbonization of energy supplies by mid century with all low carbon energy sources and technologies solar wind geothermal biomass nuclear and coal use with carbon capture and storage likely to be needed on a large scale In each case formidable technological economic and institutional obstacles stand in the way of scale up and there are no guarantees that they will be overcome If any one of these technologies including nuclear were to be taken off the table the difficulty of achieving the climate stabilization target would be much greater still This is the strongest argument for nuclear power 7 The contribution that nuclear power will actually make to reducing carbon emissions over the next few decades depends upon how rapidly it can be scaled up and recent history is sobering The existing global fleet of 436 commercial nuclear power reactors with a total net installed capacity of about 370 GWe provides about 16 percent of the world s supply of electricity today Depending on how the accounting is done the emissions avoided by the nuclear fleet amount to about 650 million tons of carbon per year or 9 percent of the current global emissions total 8 But it has taken about 40 years for the nuclear industry to reach this level and in the future the rate of expansion will need to be much faster if nuclear is to play a significant role in reducing carbon emissions In business as usual scenarios published by the International Energy Agency and separately by the IPCC CO 2 emissions are expected to reach about 41 gigatons GT per year that is 45 percent above today s level by 2030 and perhaps 45 50 GT 60 80 percent above today s level by 2050 9 If new nuclear power plants were called upon to eliminate say 25 percent of the increase in CO 2 emissions that would otherwise occur in these business as usual scenarios roughly 700 900 GWe of new nuclear capacity would have to be added by 2050 10 In other words in order to achieve the goal of displacing one quarter of the projected increase in carbon emissions at least twice as much nuclear capacity would have to be built in the next 40 years as was built in the last 40 In fact since many existing nuclear plants will reach the end of their useful life during this period and will have to be replaced the actual requirement would be closer to three times the earlier result Circumstances can easily be imagined in which the call on nuclear would be greater still since it is far from clear that the other non fossil energy sources will be able to grow as rapidly as would be required to meet the other 75 percent of the carbon displacement target However ambitious these nuclear growth scenarios might seem the growth requirements for other non fossil energy sources are at least as challenging Moreover by mid century the global rate of carbon emissions will probably need to be well below its current level in order to achieve an eventual CO 2 stabilization goal of 550 ppm in which case the demand for all low carbon sources including nuclear will be even greater In short much may be riding on how rapidly nuclear power can be scaled up If so we will have to act fast probably even faster than at the height of the first nuclear expansion But this kind of expansion is currently blocked by a thicket of obstacles and if the pace of nuclear growth is to accelerate the characteristically long cycle times in the nuclear power industry that is the time it typically takes to move from initial planning of a new investment in a nuclear power plant or fuel cycle facility to the start of operation will have to be reduced But how realistic is this Many of the reasons for the long lead times in the nuclear power industry are familiar and long standing protracted siting and licensing proceedings underlying concerns over nuclear safety and waste disposal and in some cases nuclear proliferation and the high costs of nuclear investments Other problems have emerged more recently The worldwide financial crisis has greatly complicated the prospects for financing capital intensive projects of all kinds including nuclear power plants Moreover the global industrial infrastructure required to support essential elements of nuclear power construction is at present inadequate to meet the needs of a broad nuclear power resurgence For example there is at present just one global supplier of the ultra large forgings needed to make major nuclear components such as reactor pressure vessels and the waiting list for delivery of these components has been lengthening The electric grid infrastructure in many parts of the world is currently unable to support the deployment of large nuclear power plants Serious shortages of human capital are also in prospect and will be exacerbated by the approaching retirement of many highly educated and trained nuclear specialists whose careers began during the first wave of nuclear growth in the 1960s and 1970s There is a pressing need to attract high quality students into the nuclear engineering discipline in order to support the growing needs for new power plant design construction and safe efficient and reliable operation Similarly the stringent quality demands associated with the construction of nuclear plants and their supporting infrastructure call for a highly trained trades workforce which today is seriously depleted and must be rebuilt worldwide 11 How these obstacles to nuclear expansion are dealt with will depend on particular national circumstances which as already noted vary widely from one country to another Moreover the extent of these differences is likely to grow since more and more countries are likely to be involved When national population and economic growth trends are taken into account the unavoidable conclusion is that the group of countries relying heavily on nuclear power will need to expand considerably if nuclear is to make significant contributions to greenhouse gas reductions An earlier MIT study showed that it will be effectively impossible to achieve an overall level of nuclear deployment large enough to make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions unless all four of the following developments occur 12 1 continued large scale nuclear development in Japan and the other advanced economies of East Asia 2 a renewal of nuclear investment in Europe 3 a revival and major expansion of nuclear power in North America and 4 significant programs in many developing countries not just China and India but also other populous countries like Brazil Mexico Indonesia Vietnam Nigeria and South Africa It is difficult to exaggerate the contrasts between these countries in terms of nuclear capabilities expectations and requirements The most highly evolved nuclear program today is that of France where 58 nuclear power reactors account for almost 80 percent of that country s electricity supply and more than 40 percent of total primary energy production In France the use of nuclear power for conventional electricity generation is now approaching a limit set by the operational constraints of electric power systems The available nuclear capacity exceeds the total base load demand for electricity and many French nuclear power plants are now operated at less than full capacity at certain times of the day and year For highly capital intensive facilities such as nuclear plants this is economically sub optimal French nuclear planners are exploring the feasibility of using surplus nuclear electricity to displace petroleum use in the transportation sector 13 Initially the nuclear electricity produced during off peak periods would be used to produce hydrogen via electrolysis of water The hydrogen would be combined with biomass and nuclear heat to produce liquid fuels for cars and light trucks Alternatively the electricity could be used directly for plug in hybrid electric vehicles Subsequently dedicated base load nuclear plants could be built to provide hydrogen and process heat for liquid fuels production on a larger scale This is an interesting possibility since the eventual contribution of nuclear power to carbon emission reductions will depend in part on whether its role in supplying traditional electricity markets can be augmented by displacing petroleum use in the transportation sector Other unconventional uses of nuclear energy under active development include seawater desalination 14 and the extraction of oil from tar sands In both cases fossil fuels currently provide the heat source for the process Nuclear desalination projects have been implemented in Japan India and Kazakhstan and several new projects some of them involving cogeneration of electricity and potable water are under consideration in the Middle East and elsewhere For the time being however the primary role of nuclear power will continue to be the production of base load electricity Here there are two possible directions of development The first is a continuation of the long term trend toward international convergence around standardized nuclear power reactor technologies fuel cycle strategies and operating and regulatory procedures The benefits of this approach are most clearly discernible in the case of France whose sustained commitment to a highly centralized program of progressively larger standardized nuclear power plants supported by a closed nuclear fuel cycle has yielded what by most estimates is the world s most successful nuclear power program The U S nuclear industry which eschewed this approach in the past has gradually been moving in this direction overhauling and standardizing reactor control systems for existing plants with the aim of simplifying operator training and reducing operator error This approach together with extensive preventive maintenance programs has led the U S nuclear industry over the past two decades to outstanding performance in both human safety and reactor availability presently averaging well over 90 percent Thus one way to reduce cycle times and as a side benefit significantly improve performance is for everyone to pull in the same direction 15 And indeed broadly speaking this is where we are today There are certainly important unresolved questions about the distribution of fuel cycle facilities especially the sensitive ones but the basic pathway of nuclear energy development is relatively well defined It is less clear whether this approach would be successful in the relatively large number of countries that may take up nuclear power on a significant scale for the first time however and for this reason among others we need to consider the other possible direction of development the emergence of multiple nuclear development pathways tailored to individual national circumstances The history of nuclear energy development teaches us that this technology has placed formidable demands on those institutions responsible for managing regulating financing and overseeing it and that the characteristically long cycle times in the industry and when they have occurred its performance problems can be attributed more or less directly to those heavy institutional demands The question is whether alternative developmental strategies can be designed that would pose fewer such demands and hence offer the prospect of more rapid scale up A technocratic fix for all of these problems is of course unrealistic On the other hand some configurations of nuclear technology are likely to be less burdensome to their attending institutions than others If a nuclear development strategy could be designed to minimize these burdens and so reduce nuclear cycle times what criteria would it need to satisfy The first such attribute is cost effectiveness From the customer s perspective a nuclear kilowatt hour is indistinguishable from a solar or coal kilowatt hour so nuclear power must be economically competitive Second these nuclear systems would rely as much as possible on passive design features to ensure their safety as opposed to active safety systems requiring intervention by human agents or more likely automatically controlled engineered systems Third such systems would minimize the risk of nuclear theft and terrorism and also of state level nuclear weapons proliferation Fourth on the question of scale as opposed to scale up these systems would be appropriate to the scale of the national electricity grid and other relevant institutional capabilities 16 Finally any

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  • Nuclear energy & climate change - American Academy of Arts & Sciences
    Deployment is highly concentrated however 10 countries operate more than 80 percent of all power reactors Small physical flows The thermal energy required to produce 1 000 MW of power for a year is released from the fission of only 1 ton of uranium in fuel produced from 200 tons of uranium but from the burning of 3 million tons of coal The flip side of compactness of course is that danger comes in very small packages it takes only a few kilograms of fissile material to make a nuclear weapon Minimal CO 2 emissions About 90 percent of the CO 2 is expected to be excluded from the atmosphere if coal power and gas power are combined with CO 2 capture and storage The economic optimum percent to be sure depends on the CO 2 emissions price In that case the CO 2 emissions from CCS power nuclear power and most forms of renewable energy are likely to be comparably small all emitting less than 100 grams of CO 2 kWh one tenth of the value for today s coal plants Large centralized plants with fixed output To be economic nuclear plants are large and connected to extensive electricity grids that distribute power over long distances The power output of nuclear power plants is not easily ramped up and down rendering it an inflexible component of an electric power system The inflexibility of base load nuclear power and the intermittency of wind and solar energy share the feature that neither of these low CO2 emitters can meet a time varying demand for electric power without assistance from complementary systems load following and peaking plants and storage Safety makes all plants mutual hostages The Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents of 1979 and 1986 respectively taught the world that a nuclear power accident anywhere in the world affects the prospects for nuclear power everywhere Nuclear energy is more brittle than other strategies to mitigate climate change as one major future accident could overnight nullify the resources and time invested in nuclear power made up to that point Nuclear power plants are potential military targets It is all too likely that a commercial nuclear power plant in a country at war would be attacked with horrendous consequences No taboo on such attacks exists today 12 Storage of spent fuel remains a problem At the advent of nuclear power its advocates promised that no future generation would need to attend to our wastes That goal of early final disposal has proven to be overly ambitious Today the second best approach to the waste problem is interim dry cask storage of nuclear spent fuel now widely deployed which provides a century scale solution while the search for solutions that isolate nuclear wastes for millennia continues Coupling to nuclear weapons With a nuclear power plant comes a fuel cycle with a front end that can require uranium isotope enrichment and a back end that can entail the separation of plutonium and its insertion into commerce Both the front and back end present significant and enduring challenges For the rest of this paper we focus only on the last of these aspects of nuclear power In our view the fact that nuclear power is coupled to nuclear weapons is the most disabling attribute of global nuclear power at the present time Separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium are the key ingredients for making nuclear weapons It is widely accepted that the production or acquisition of these fissile materials is the most difficult visible and time consuming step in the proliferation process Reprocessing and enrichment under national control essentially removes this obstacle and offers intended or not important latent proliferation capabilities Regarding reprocessing and plutonium recycle the world is now divided Six countries reprocess their commercial spent fuel today France India Japan and Russia are deeply committed to reprocessing China operates a pilot reprocessing plant and is contemplating commercial reprocessing today and the United Kingdom is on the verge of abandoning reprocessing The United States does not reprocess civilian spent fuel nor does it introduce plutonium into its power plants policies established under Presidents Ford and Carter The principal arguments against plutonium recycling are that separation stockpiling transport and use of plutonium create risks of diversion to military purposes and risks of theft the latter being of particular concern in the context of efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism Compared to other types of nuclear facilities reprocessing plants are extremely difficult and costly to safeguard The bar graph see Figure 2 shows the quantities of separated plutonium in the world today Civilian separated plutonium and military separated plutonium are both roughly equal at about 250 tons 13 Military plutonium is in two categories material in the weapons complex and material declared excess as a result of reductions from previous warhead levels The bar graph also shows the substantial further reductions in military plutonium associated with nuclear weapons if the world s weapons stockpile is reduced first to 15 000 and then 4 000 warheads 14 In this process additional military stocks would become excess and would need to be disposed of Over time unless reprocessing of civilian spent fuel swiftly draws to a close the world can expect to become increasingly preoccupied with latent proliferation and breakout 15 associated with civilian separated plutonium even if nuclear power does not expand significantly A global nuclear power expansion with reprocessing makes matters much worse Figure 2 Military and Civilian Separated Plutonium Today and Military Plutonium in Weapons in a Disarming World We assume an average of 4 kg of plutonium per warhead and a working stock of 20 percent Civilian stockpiles are based on the latest declarations for the beginning of 2008 The current military stockpile carries an error bar of plus or minus 25 tons largely because of the uncertainties in the estimate of Russia s inventory Source Based on information from International Panel on Fissile Materials Global Fissile Material Report 2009 Princeton N J I PFM forthcoming So far no country that decided to pursue commercial reprocessing has managed to balance the rates of separation and use of plutonium which has led to a continuous increase of civilian plutonium inventories over the past decades hypothetically enough for more than 30 000 weapons 16 The flow of plutonium could be enormous in a world with much more nuclear energy The 2003 MIT report works out the plutonium flows for a scenario with 1 500 GW of nuclear power where 40 percent of total capacity is from breeder reactors 17 About 1 000 tons of plutonium would be separated from the spent fuel each year to fabricate new fuel for these reactors The IAEA cannot reduce the overall uncertainty of measurements for the annual material balance in reprocessing plants much below 1 percent 18 Assuming that 20 large scale reprocessing plants existed in this world the uncertainty would be equivalent to 500 kg of plutonium every year for every plant enough for 60 bombs per year from each of these plants Within these margins the IAEA would be unable to confirm with high confidence that all material is accounted for It is hard to see how these flows and levels of uncertainty could ever be acceptable in particular with fuel cycles under national control Many discussions of a potential global nuclear expansion posit that uranium resources will run short unless the world moves to the closed fuel cycle In the case of the once through fuel cycle as noted above about 200 tons of uranium are mined and purified for every ton of material fissioned each year in a 1GW reactor This inefficiency has plagued nuclear engineers and reactor designers from the very beginning of the nuclear era Already in 1944 a group of eminent scientists of the U S Manhattan Project devised the concept of the breeder reactor which would produce more fuel than it consumes because they were concerned that uranium might be too scarce to build even a small number of bombs 19 And since the 1950s several countries have launched plutonium breeder reactor programs motivated in part by concern that deposits of high grade natural uranium ore might become scarce as nuclear power expanded 20 The argument for reprocessing based on the scarcity of uranium however is a weak one Plutonium fuels will remain non competitive compared to uranium fuels until the price of uranium increases to more than 500 kg of uranium about four times its price today 21 The estimated global reserve is sufficient to fuel thousands of reactors Even with a major expansion of nuclear power availability and price of uranium will not significantly affect the viability or competitiveness of the once through fuel cycle through 2050 and probably even beyond Unlike reprocessing uranium enrichment is an essential part of the nuclear fuel cycle today 22 As with reprocessing however even a relatively small enrichment plant is sufficiently large to support a significant military program A standard 1 GW reactor requires about 20 tons per year of low enriched uranium LEU which in turn requires 200 tons of natural uranium input to an enrichment plant The same enrichment plant the size that Brazil and Iran are currently building with the same natural uranium input can be used to produce about 600 kg per year of weapons grade highly enriched uranium HEU enough for 25 to 50 weapons per year Centrifuge enrichment plants now dominate the modern nuclear fuel cycle even though it was always understood that the technology is highly proliferation prone 23 They can be converted quickly from production of LEU to production of HEU 24 And they can be built clandestinely a primary concern with Iran s program today Even if we assume that the accumulation of separated plutonium can be stopped in a world with a greater role for nuclear power we are left with the problem of the spread of other sensitive nuclear fuel cycle technology notably centrifuge enrichment to non weapons states Multinational ownership and control of sensitive fuel cycle facilities would therefore seem to be a necessary element of a world where nuclear power is deployed widely but risks of nuclear war and nuclear terrorism are smaller than today Can nuclear power be decoupled from nuclear weapons From the very beginning of the nuclear age it was understood that allowing nuclear facilities to operate under national control even under international monitoring carried serious risks Nonetheless civilian nuclear energy use and related proliferation risks received little attention for the first 25 years while the nuclear arms race of the two superpowers was unfolding and the weapons programs in other countries were largely unconstrained The debate over alternative multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle first engaged the world in the mid 1970s and is now with us again 25 The nuclear industry however has traditionally been reluctant to acknowledge the connection between civilian and military use of nuclear energy The Director General of the World Nuclear Association an industry lobby group recently said T he global non proliferation and safeguards system effectively curtails any link between civil and military programs 26 He added W hatever proliferation risk we face would be unaffected even by a 20 fold increase in the global use of safeguarded nuclear reactors What degree of decoupling of nuclear power from nuclear weapons could be accomplished with multilateral approaches To answer this question one must consider the points of view of both providers and recipients of nuclear technology 27 Nuclear supplier states and today s nuclear weapons states emphasize the objectives of preventing the further spread of sensitive nuclear technologies and of ensuring that they are used only for peaceful purposes where they remain Many states however in particular recipient and non weapons states have different priorities For them to support and participate in multilateral approaches and to forgo research and development of certain elements of the fuel cycle they require specific incentives Increased energy security through fuel assurances is often not one of them because most states are already satisfied with the current market structure characterized by several independent and reliable fuel suppliers The interests of many recipient states lie elsewhere Among many non weapons states there is broad dissatisfaction with the status and prospects of the Non Proliferation Treaty NPT Their priority is limiting any differential nuclear weapons capability in their region but they are also unhappy about the implementation of Articles IV and VI which define rights and obligations with respect to peaceful use and disarmament 28 The current system of supplier states which is based in the nuclear weapons states and a few closely allied countries is seen as a major expression of a distorted implementation of Article IV Some proposals for multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle tend to increase this tension further by creating a two tier world of suppliers and users But other approaches recognize this dilemma They envision a more active role for non weapons states in the supplier market for example featuring participation in multinational enrichment plants Fuel cycle facilities under multinational ownership and control are not a silver bullet but they offer several important advantages vis à vis plants under national control At a minimum multinational plants can serve as a confidence building measure through regional cooperation and make breakout politically more costly Moreover if sensitive technologies are used on a black box basis as they often are today in the case of centrifuge enrichment plants even in weapons states participants would not unnecessarily acquire latent proliferation capabilities Over time multinational ownership and control could therefore alleviate concerns about parallel clandestine programs In support of sustainable one tier arrangements multinational ownership of fuel cycle facilities in the nuclear weapons states and supplier states will be a necessary complement to similar arrangements in non weapons states and recipient states Eventually conversion of all existing national enrichment plants to multinational ownership and control will be required Enrichment providers will not easily cede control of their existing facilities and place them in a new and initially uncertain institutional framework However if nuclear disarmament proceeds and deeper cuts in nuclear arsenals are agreed upon the weapons states all of which have built or are building large scale uranium enrichment plants would themselves have strong incentives to embrace multinational controls as a way to constrain national breakout capabilities and reduce the risk of clandestine enrichment plants Nuclear power will confront two major tests in the coming decade First issues related to coupling to weapons must be resolved Second the cost of nuclear electricity must be demonstrated to be competitive How should this next decade be used We identify four priorities First to address the coupling to weapons the once through fuel cycle must become the norm The trend of accumulating stockpiles of civilian plutonium must be stopped and reversed Current reprocessing must be phased out so that there are no additions to the massive overhangs of separated plutonium now in place in countries that have been reprocessing and work toward the safe disposal of existing separated plutonium stocks must begin Moreover all enrichment plants must be brought under effective multinational ownership and control Second to improve the competitiveness of nuclear power relative to other sources of energy supply reductions in construction and operating costs will be required Broadly based sharing of information about the construction of new nuclear power plants is in the interest of the industry such sharing should result in a firm understanding of the costs when best practices are pursued 29 Similarly plant operation procedures for both new and existing plants including operator training could be coordinated internationally beyond the levels today Not much new capacity is likely to be added to the grid in this decade 30 but the bottlenecks that today thwart expansion must be addressed These include production of pressure vessels and other distinctive high technology components trained people and regulatory and legal frameworks To promote innovation and reduce concerns about the safety of older plants worldwide incentives that today strongly favor plant life extension should be revised in favor of retirement and new construction Third during the coming decade the social contract between the nuclear industry and the public regarding burdening future generations with the management of nuclear waste must be renegotiated so that interim storage of nuclear waste can become the option of choice for at least several decades Drycask storage can be widely implemented Development and exploration of potential sites for long term geologic disposal of nuclear wastes can continue but with reduced pressure to authorize long term repositories 31 Finally research and development undertaken in the next one or two decades must support the transition to a nuclear fuel cycle compatible with nuclear energy on a larger scale and in more countries 32 Some of this activity must explore advanced safeguards techniques and further expand the idea of safeguards by design which recognizes that plant design can facilitate or frustrate IAEA safeguards efforts 33 We end with four questions that we believe deserve much more discussion and we provide tentative answers Will nuclear energy fare better in a world where climate change is a priority Not necessarily Climate change policy could handicap fossil fuels but forcefully promote renewable energy and efficiency Nuclear power s short term fate depends more on other factors notably capital and operating costs safety record coupling to nuclear militarization and the overall sense of competence and responsibility that the industry projects Can we have much more nuclear energy without nuclear disarmament Only with great difficulty A multilateral nuclear disarmament process might be the most effective way perhaps the only way for states to move away from enrichment and reprocessing plants under national control Proposals for multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle need to take the nuclear disarmament process rather than traditional nuclear nonproliferation efforts as their main frame of reference Can we have nuclear energy in a nuclear weapons free world A nuclear weapons free world would be more stable and more secure

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  • The economic future of nuclear power - American Academy of Arts & Sciences
    planned to phase out nuclear power completely are now reevaluating those policies Of course if nuclear power is limited to the continued operation of the existing fleet of plants nuclear power s share of electricity generation will fall over time as electricity demand continues to grow and maximum capacity factor limits are reached as they have been in the United States and some other countries Real growth in nuclear power therefore is necessarily dependent on the prospects for building new nuclear power plants There are 44 nuclear units under construction globally with a combined capacity of about 38 000 megawatts the equivalent of about 10 percent of the generating capacity of the existing global fleet of nuclear plants 14 Of the 44 plants under construction 11 are in China 8 are in Russia 6 are in India and 5 are in South Korea Taiwan Japan Ukraine and Bulgaria each has two plants under construction Finland France and Iran each has one with a second approved for construction in France Thus at present most construction activity is in developing countries Russia or Eastern Europe As already noted in the United States 26 applications for licenses for new plants have been filed with the NRC and more are anticipated though none of these plants is close to commencing construction The U K and Italian governments have indicated that they will adopt policies that will end de facto bans on building new nuclear plants and interest in acquiring nuclear plants has been expressed by countries in North Africa and the Middle East that currently have no nuclear plants The IAEA reports that 24 of the 30 countries with nuclear power plants are considering investments in new capacity and 20 countries that do not now have nuclear power plants are actively considering developing plants in the future to help to meet their energy needs How do the costs of building and operating new nuclear power plants compare to alternative generating technologies with and without a price on CO 2 How do the primary economic and CO 2 mitigation motivations for building new nuclear power plants weigh against other considerations safety energy security access to nuclear technology to obtain weapons capabilities that may play a role as well In attempting to answer these questions we rely heavily on the 2003 MIT study The Future of Nuclear Power which analyzes the cost of generating electricity from nuclear coal and CCGT technologies as well as other issues associated with commercial nuclear power 15 The cost analysis has since been updated by Yangbo Du and John Parsons to reflect new construction cost and fuel cost information and to adjust for inflation and we rely here on this update 16 While the range of values for some of the input variables is likely to vary from country to country we believe that these numbers provide a good picture of the relative costs of alternative base load generating technologies 17 Because nuclear power plants are much more capital intensive than alternative base load electric generating technologies their economic attractiveness depends heavily on the construction costs of the plants the cost of capital or hurdle rate used by investors to value the cash flow generated by the plants over time and the lifetime capacity factor of the plant since this defines the amount of electricity produced per unit of generating capacity that will earn revenues to cover both the operating and the capital costs of a new nuclear plant In addition because nuclear plants do not produce CO 2 emissions policies that place an explicit or shadow price on CO 2 emissions also affect their economic attractiveness compared to fossil fueled alternatives There has been much confusion and debate about the costs of building new nuclear plants This situation is largely a consequence of the lack of reliable contemporary data for the actual construction costs of real nuclear plants Few nuclear plants have been built in the last two decades and reliable cost information is not typically publicly available Therefore any estimate of future construction costs is necessarily uncertain This is evident from the experience with Olkiluoto Unit 3 in Finland where construction is running more than two years behind schedule and about 40 percent over initial cost estimates Much more actual cost information is available for coal fueled and CCGT plants because there is a significant amount of contemporary experience with building new plants in the United States and Europe Accordingly construction cost estimates for new coal and new gas plants are likely to be more reliable In addition construction cost information is also quoted in a number of different ways making meaningful comparisons both difficult and potentially confusing Reactor vendors also initially quoted extremely optimistic construction cost numbers for the new generation of nuclear plants that were based on engineering cost estimates rather than real construction experience and excluded some costs that investors must take into account Construction cost estimates should include all costs that are relevant to the potential investor including not only the costs incurred to build the plant itself but also the costs of cooling facilities land acquisition insurance fuel inventories engineering permitting and training For cost comparisons to be meaningful they must be based on a common computational format The standard cost metric used for evaluating the costs of electric generating plant alternatives is the overnight cost of building the plant This is the cost of building the plant as if it could be built instantly that is using current prices and without the addition of finance charges related to the time required for construction These costs as well as differences in cash flow profiles during construction and plant life are not ignored but are handled separately in the evaluation of the cash flows required to pay back the total costs of alternative generating technologies once the overnight construction cost estimates are determined The reason for working with overnight costs rather than just adding up the construction cost dollars expended is to be able to account for different construction periods rates of inflation and costs of capital that may be attributed to different technologies and to express cost comparisons at the same general price levels The capacity factor assumed also has important implications for the unit cost that is derived If the capacity factor is low then the total cost per unit of electricity produced will be high since the capital and fixed operating costs must be covered by fewer units of production and vice versa The capacity factor of U S nuclear power plants today is about 90 percent and some analyses of nuclear power costs assume that new plants will immediately operate at 90 percent or higher capacity factors However while the capacity factors of the existing fleet of U S plants today is about 90 percent their lifetime capacity factor is less than 80 percent And it is the lifetime capacity factor that is relevant for evaluating the costs of an investment in a new plant since they must recover their investment from the output produced by the plant over its economic lifetime Globally lifetime capacity factors were about 82 percent as of 2007 remaining roughly constant since 2000 Only Finland has a fleet of nuclear plants with lifetime capacity factors greater than 90 percent and only four other countries have fleets with lifetime capacity factors greater than 85 percent Two recently completed plants in South Korea reached 90 percent capacity factors quickly but another two had not achieved lifetime capacity factors of 90 percent after six years of operation Three of the four most recently completed plants in Japan have a lifetime capacity factor of less than 70 percent and the fourth has a factor less than 80 percent Low capacity factors in the early years of plant operation are especially burdensome to the economic attractiveness of investment in a nuclear plant since the revenue stream is present valued to evaluate the investment and weights are larger on early years than on distant years Overall we consider the assumption that new plants will operate at 90 percent capacity factors almost as soon as they are completed to be very optimistic Table 1 displays our estimates of the costs of generating a kWh of electricity for base load nuclear coal and CCGT generating technologies These cost estimates are updates of the ones contained in the MIT study The Future of Nuclear Power to reflect more recent information real changes in construction costs and general inflation The table shows the capital cost for the three technologies expressed as an overnight cost per unit of capacity The overnight cost for construction of a new nuclear power plant is 4 000 per kilowatt of capacity measured in 2007 dollars The overnight cost for a coal plant is 2 300 kW and 850 kW for a CCGT plant The table also shows the fuel cost for each of the three technologies The cost of uranium together with all of the costs for enrichment and fabrication yields a total fuel cost for nuclear power of 0 67 MMBtu Because the prices of coal and natural gas are so volatile and because these can represent a substantial fraction of the cost of producing electricity we show the cost of electricity under three scenarios for the prices of coal and gas The moderate coal price scenario assumes a delivered price of coal of 65 ton which translates to 2 60 MMBtu assuming that this is a Central Appalachian coal with 12 500 Btu The low coal price scenario is 40 ton or 1 60 MMBtu and the high scenario is 90 ton or 3 60 MMBtu The moderate natural gas price scenario is 7 00 MMBtu the low scenario is 4 00 MMBtu and the high scenario is 10 00 MMBtu Table 1 Costs of Electric Generation Alternatives Overnight Cost kW Fuel Cost MMBtu Levelized Cost of Electricity cent kWh Nuclear 4 000 0 67 8 4 Coal low 2 300 1 60 5 2 Coal moderate 2 300 2 60 6 2 Gas high 850 3 60 7 2 Gas low 850 4 00 4 2 Gas moderate 850 7 00 6 5 Gas high 850 10 00 8 7 The low moderate and high fuel costs for coal correspond to a 40 65 and 90 short ton delivered price of Central Appalachian coal 12 500 Btu respectively Costs are measured in 2007 dollars The last column of Table 1 shows the calculated cost of electricity for each of the three technologies This is the price that a generator would have to charge escalated with inflation in order to cover its fuel and other operating costs and to earn a return on its capital equal to the opportunity cost of capital invested in the plant The required return on capital will depend upon the many institutional arrangements of the electric power industry Plants may be built either by public authorities or by private companies and private companies may operate as public utilities under rate of return regulation or may operate under the merchant model in which they construct plants at their own risk earning profits from the sale of the power into competitive wholesale markets The costs of electricity we show in Table 1 are based on the cost of capital required by private investors operating within this merchant model Because of the past poor record of construction of nuclear power plants because of the enormous uncertainty surrounding the estimated cost of construction of a new nuclear power plant and because of the uncertainty surrounding the success of the new combined construction and operating license process Future of Nuclear applied a slightly higher cost of capital to nuclear power than to coalor gas fired power the cost update does so as well A major task facing the U S nuclear industry including the NRC is proving that construction costs and the risk of delays and overruns have been reduced Doing so would reduce the required cost of capital and bring down the cost of electricity from nuclear power The costs shown in Table 1 do not incorporate the benefits of loan guarantees or production tax credits offered under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 The updated cost of electricity from nuclear power is 8 4 kWh This is higher than the 6 2 kWh for coal and the 6 5 kWh for gas under our moderate coal and gas price scenarios Under our high coal and gas price scenarios the cost of electricity from coal is 7 2 kWh which remains below that from nuclear while the cost of electricity from natural gas is 8 7 kWh which is above that from nuclear The capital cost represents nearly 80 percent of the cost of electricity produced by nuclear power but only 15 percent of the cost of electricity produced by gas with coal being an intermediate case Fuel cost represents approximately 80 percent of the cost of electricity produced by gas but only 10 percent of the cost of electricity produced by nuclear with coal again being an intermediate case Table 2 displays the same updated numbers but adds a charge for CO 2 emissions Two levels are considered 25 metric ton of CO 2 and 50 metric ton of CO 2 It is unlikely that largescale carbon capture and sequestration CCS investments would be economical at these levels so investment in coal with CCS is not an economical substitute at these CO 2 price levels Even at the lower charge of 25 metric ton of CO 2 the cost of power from coal in our moderate coal price scenario is up to 8 3 kWh so that nuclear would be competitive with coal At the higher charge of 50 metric ton of CO 2 nuclear power is cheaper than coal even at the low coal price scenario At the lower charge of 25 metric ton of CO 2 the cost of power from gas is still less than the cost from nuclear in both the low and the moderate gas price scenarios At the higher charge of 50 metric ton of CO 2 nuclear power is cheaper than gas in both the moderate and high gas price scenarios although not in the low gas price scenario Table 2 Costs of Electric Generation Alternatives Inclusive of Carbon Charge Overnight Cost kW Fuel Cost MMBtu Levelized Cost of Electricity cent kWh with carbon charge 25 tCO 2 with carbon charge 50 tCO 2 Nuclear 4 000 0 67 8 4 8 4 Coal low 2 300 1 60 7 3 9 4 Coal moderate 2 300 2 60 8 3 10 4 Gas high 2 300 3 60 9 3 11 4 Gas low 850 4 00 5 1 6 0 Gas moderate 850 7 00 7 4 8 3 Gas high 850 10 00 9 6 10 5 The low moderate and high fuel costs for coal correspond to a 40 65 and 90 short ton delivered price of Central Appalachian coal 12 500 Btu respectively Costs are measured in 2007 dollars These numbers illustrate the tradeoffs facing an investor making a choice on which type of capacity to install For nuclear power the main source of uncertainty is at the point of construction For coal fired power the price of coal matters but the choice society makes about the penalty for carbon emissions is the central driver and risk For gas fired power both the price of natural gas and the charge for carbon are major risks Of course the future of nuclear power will depend on more than conventional economic considerations In this section we briefly discuss the most important of those other considerations though we do not think that the passage of time since its publication in 2003 has changed the conclusions regarding these considerations that can be found in The Future of Nuclear Power It is imperative that all nuclear facilities reactors as well as enrichment fuel storage and reprocessing facilities be operated with high levels of safety While many of the safety metrics for existing reactors have improved significantly in recent years The Future of Nuclear Power argues that the probability of a serious accident remains too high to support a large expansion in the fleet of nuclear plants We subscribe to that study s recommendations for improving safety in both the short run and the long run Unless nuclear reactors and the nuclear fuel cycle are perceived virtually to guarantee that there will not be a major accidental release of radioactive materials that would have significant adverse effects on human health and welfare public support for nuclear power will erode quickly as it did after the incidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl Moreover it is important that high safety standards be established and enforced internationally as an accident in one country can have both direct adverse health and welfare effects on neighboring countries and indirect adverse effects on public acceptance of nuclear power in all countries A continuing challenge is the deployment of long term storage or disposal facilities for the high level radioactive waste produced by nuclear power plants and fuel cycle facilities No long term spent fuel storage or disposal facilities are yet in operation The programs in Finland Sweden France and the United States are the most advanced though funding for the waste disposal facility planned for Yucca Mountain in Nevada was recently canceled From a safety perspective it is not necessary to solve the long term problem now Waste fuel can be stored in dry casks in secure facilities for 50 years or more and await further technological economic and political developments However the absence of a long term strategy for waste does create potential political problems and some countries may not proceed with nuclear power until this challenge is resolved The expansion of nuclear power must be accompanied by safeguards to assure that it does not lead to the proliferation of traditional nuclear weapons or increase

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  • A skeptic's view of nuclear energy - American Academy of Arts & Sciences
    2007 China s National Development and Reform Commission announced that its target nuclear generation capacity for 2030 is 120 to 160 GW In June 2008 the China Electrical Council projected 60 GW of nuclear capacity by 2020 10 I do not know how realistic these recent projections are but it is important to note also that the reference scenario of the World Energy Outlook 2008 while projecting an additional 30 GW nuclear capacity in China by 2030 also projects an additional 800 GW of coal capacity for the same period which I will say more about later In some respects the grand Chinese projections mirror those made in the United States in the 1970s see Figure 1 There are differences to be sure the U S projections were based on very high rates of growth of electricity roughly twice the rate of GDP growth while the Chinese electric growth rates assumed are closer to the GDP rates Nevertheless the 1970s projections by the United States do represent a cautionary tale of over exuberance and it may be worthwhile to keep them in mind when evaluating China s plans Figure 1 The U S Atomic Energy Commission Projection of the Growth of Nuclear Power in the United States 1974 LWR stands for light water reactor and Breeder refers to liquid metal fast neutron breeder reactor IMFBR Source U S Atomic Energy Commission Proposed Environmental Impact Statement on the Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor WASH 1535 1974 The fairly tepid projections for nuclear power outside of Asia are due to several factors but two are particularly significant the extraordinarily high capital investment required and the continued public wariness about nuclear power driven by an amalgam of concerns over safety radioactive waste disposal and nuclear proliferation The recent literature shows a range of costs both for nuclear and its competitors For nuclear overnight capital costs projected for new plants range roughly from 3 000 to 5 000 kW with costs in the United States somewhat on the higher side 11 When total bus bar costs are considered nuclear appears at least arguably competitive with integrated gasification combined cycle coal IGCC and combined cycle gas turbine CCGT plants if there is a carbon charge roughly in the range of 30 to 50 per ton of CO 2 emitted Nuclear also appears reasonably competitive with wind in many regions where the wind is supplemented by compressed air storage to make the wind resource more resemblant of base load 12 For the United States the Energy Information Administration estimates the overnight cost of an advanced nuclear plant to be 3 300 kW 13 which would imply a capital cost including interest paid during construction of something like 4 200 kW This however could be on the low side for plants constructed in the United States at least as noted below Overnight costs for all forms of electric generation have grown over the past few years but the rise in costs is especially significant for nuclear both because of the large sizes of new nuclear reactors and because the construction period for nuclear is markedly longer than for its principal competitors thus adding to the total capital cost Although there have been some paper studies of smaller reactors in the range of 50 to 100 MW there are few plans to build and widely deploy such reactors Also while China and India are deploying small reactors on the order of 300 GW and some of these could in principle be exported to other countries the market niches for such reactors appear limited Studies of high temperature gas cooled reactors also contemplate a 100 to 300 MW scale but none of these reactors is ready to go through the licensing process Therefore the new proposed reactors are for the most part 1 GW or considerably larger Also the principal reactors that are ready to deploy are all light water reactors 14 Thus for example in a March 2008 filing by Progress Energy with the Florida Public Service Commission the company estimated the overnight costs for two proposed Westinghouse AP 000 Reactors about 1 100 MW each to be more than 5 000 kW for the first and 3 300 kW for the second Including project escalation escalated costs before AFUDC Allowance for Funds Used During Construction and AFUDC the totals came to 8 3 billion and 5 8 billion respectively for the two reactors 15 a tremendous risk for any company or utility In light of this risk the credit rating company Standard Poor s points out that no utility will commit to a project as large and risky as a new nuclear plant without assurance of cost recovery 16 The World Energy Outlook 2008 makes a similar point In the traditional vertically integrated public service model the supply company was often a monopoly and could count on recovering the investment and the target return In the competitive situation now existing in most OECD countries and several non OECD countries risks have to some extent moved from rate and tax payers to competing market players This perception of increased risk drives up the investor s required rate of return 17 The risks evident in new nuclear construction are compounded by the prospect that the already longer construction period needed for nuclear compared to its competitors could be extended further still both by public interventions and also by another problem associated with nuclear if not unique to it an erosion of construction and operating competence and lack of manufacturing infrastructure due to the almost complete absence of new builds in the United States and Europe over the past many years If there were a real renaissance these deficiencies would right themselves over time with students again going into nuclear engineering workers again being trained and so on but the current lack is certainly one reason for caution in assuming that such a renaissance will happen in the first place 18 Simply to replace retired nuclear capacity will require building a large number of new nuclear plants in the coming decades a challenge given the continuing public skepticism about nuclear power An opinion poll of 18 countries in 2005 sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA found that less than one third of the public supported building new reactors Even when prompted specifically about the possible use of nuclear energy to combat climate change only 38 percent expressed support for an expanded reliance on nuclear power It should also be noted however that more than two thirds of those polled opposed shutting down nuclear altogether 19 Also in some countries including the United States the United Kingdom and Sweden public acceptance of nuclear appears to be rising though there are still sizable minorities strongly opposed 20 Public skepticism has been driven largely by worries about safety and radioactive waste disposal Modern nuclear reactors have impressive safety features and the new designs incorporate still further refinements Nevertheless the potential of a catastrophic event either an accident or some kind of terrorist incident is always present and lingering concerns over safety certainly color public views of nuclear power Aside from the immediate devastation that would be caused by a severe event it is also widely recognized that were such an event to occur the entire nuclear enterprise worldwide would be called into question Even if the chance of a severe accident were say one in a million per reactor year a future nuclear capacity of 1 000 reactors worldwide would be faced with a 1 percent chance of such an accident each 10 year period low perhaps but not negligible considering the consequences 21 And it is worth emphasizing that while accident probabilities can perhaps be estimated there is no real or persuasive way to gauge the risk of terrorist attacks on reactors Until reactors are inherently safe that is until there is no credible way in which large amounts of radioactivity could ever be released the specter of a catastrophic event will hang over the nuclear enterprise It is clear also that the unsettled state of radioactive waste disposal remains a component in public worry about nuclear power Technically waste disposal might not be an unsolvable problem In the short term dry cask storage appears relatively inexpensive and safe in the long term geological storage in a repository appears doable and safe However politically solutions are not so easily come by In the United States this has been recently highlighted by the apparent demise of the Yucca Mountain repository 22 While Finland and Sweden at the moment at least appear to have found a political path to siting a repository there has been little progress elsewhere in locating and developing repositories One final shadow over a nuclear renaissance is the growing international concern about nuclear proliferation It is well understood that one of the factors leading several countries now without nuclear power programs to express interest in nuclear power is the foundation that such programs could give them to develop weapons In this sense the connection between nuclear power and nuclear weapons could lead to some expansion of nuclear power But this motive would likely lead at most to very modest programs The nuclear proliferation risk is instead more likely to inhibit nuclear expansion For one proliferation worries will surely restrict the amount of encouragement and subsidies that the large industrialized countries will be willing to extend to countries to develop nuclear power Certainly if a nuclear renaissance means spreading nuclear power to a score or more of new countries as well as expanding existing programs then the current governance of the nuclear fuel cycle internationally would have to be much altered with limits for example on national enrichment and reprocessing plants were there a serious attempt to make nuclear expansion proliferation resistant Such changes are possible but so far have garnered little support from countries that do not already have national fuel cycle facilities in operation The strongest impulse to a nuclear renaissance is the view that nuclear represents the most developed and economic low carbon electricity alternative 23 Other articles in this issue examine nuclear economics in more detail but let it be granted that nuclear power will be roughly competitive with IGCC coal and CCGT gas if a carbon charge of something like 30 to 50 per ton CO 2 equivalent is imposed Though perhaps more controversial let it also be granted that wind combined with compressed air energy storage will also be roughly competitive with nuclear Leaving out other possibilities such as solar and geothermal among renewables and end use efficiency advances the principal low carbon alternatives to nuclear are likely to be carbon capture and storage at coal plants natural gas combined cycle plants even without carbon capture and storage wind both with accompanying storage and as a standalone intermittent source of electricity and efficiencies in electricity generation 24 If we then ask which of these alternatives can give the world the biggest greenhouse gas abatement for the buck it is not at all clear that nuclear will look as indispensable to climate change policy as its proponents insist Considering the limited amount of capital available for investment in electric generation overall investment in nuclear plants could hurt the growth of potentially more effective alternatives The World Energy Outlook 2008 reports that carbon capture and storage CCS is a promising technology for carbon abatement even though it has not yet been applied to large scale power generation A few CCS projects are under way and several full scale CCS projects have been announced varying in scale from industrial prototypes to projects on a 1 200 MWscale with target dates for deployment between 2010 and 2017 25 Scientists appear reasonably confident that these projects will confirm that CCS could be competitive with other major carbon mitigation strategies and that the geological CO 2 storage capacity worldwide would be vast sufficient to handle CO 2 emissions from fossil fuel plants for a century or longer 26 The U S Energy Information Agency for example estimates that for an integrated coal gasification combined cycle plant IGCC with CCS the overnight cost is just over 3 000 kW about the same as an advanced nuclear plant assuming both come on line by 2016 and that the IGCC plant has a construction time two years shorter than the nuclear plant 27 It is too soon to rely confidently on CCS but if it does develop as projected it will be a close competitor to nuclear probably with similar life cycle costs and carbon abatement potential CCGT natural gas plants of course are not carbon free However even without carbon capture and storage if they are replacing coal plants they will save carbon emissions A nuclear plant replacing a modern coal plant of 1 000 MW capacity would save about 1 5 million tons of carbon per year a gas plant replacing the same coal plant would save about half of this or 0 75 million tons of carbon per year 28 So the nuclear plant would double the savings However a modern gas plant has a capital cost about one fourth that of a nuclear plant 29 meaning that for the same capital cost natural gas could save more than two times the carbon emissions than nuclear And it could do this far more quickly than possible with a nuclear expansion Cumulative carbon saved over decades could be far greater than with nuclear If a large expansion in gas generated electricity led to a more rapid rise in the price of natural gas the greenhouse gas savings might not be worth the cost But there have been many recent discoveries of natural gas in the United States and elsewhere in fact the natural gas resource worldwide appears to be much greater than had been estimated In addition a large expansion of wind as described in further detail below could release a considerable quantity of gas now being used for base load generation as well as substitute more directly for nuclear generation While installed capacity of nuclear has been roughly constant worldwide over the past decade wind capacity has grown dramatically At the end of 2007 cumulative world wind capacity was more than 94 GW having grown at an average of more than 25 percent per year for the preceding eight years In the United States there have been no new orders of nuclear plants for more than 30 years By contrast in 2007 about 8 GW of new wind capacity were installed with a cumulative capacity at the end of the year of about 17 GW 30 It appears that another 8 GW or more were installed in 2008 In 2008 the United States Department of Energy completed a study showing the feasibility of a scenario in which wind would contribute 20 percent of total U S electricity by 2030 such a contribution would require a wind capacity of about 300 GW 31 Wind of course is an intermittent source of electricity generation and its full exploitation will require more new transmission lines than would nuclear because the strongest wind resources in many parts of the world including in the United States are far from demand centers Nevertheless wind economics look attractive On a capital cost comparison wind turbines cost about one half that of nuclear per installed kilowatt 32 since the capacity factor for wind might be one half that of nuclear the carbon savings per capital cost for wind and nuclear might be roughly comparable But again because wind turbines can be installed much faster than could nuclear the cumulative greenhouse gas savings per capital invested appear likely to be greater for wind The wind projections heretofore have been mainly for stand alone wind turbines without any significant storage If recent estimates of the potential of compressed air storage prove on target wind could eventually become a baseload resource with a still greater upside capacity One other potent competitor to nuclear and to CCS and renewable too will be efficiency improvements both end state and in the power sector itself Here I look briefly only at the power sector Today the world average fuel to electricity conversion efficiency of coal fired power plants is below 35 per cent 33 New coal fired plants have efficiencies up to 46 percent and by 2030 the efficiencies of a modern coal plant could reach 50 percent or higher In its business as usual scenario the World Energy Outlook 2008 estimated that worldwide coal generating capacity will roughly double from 2006 to 2030 with an overall average efficiency in 2030 of about 37 to 38 percent 41 percent in OECD countries 34 Investments that would drive the average efficiency of world coal fired plants in 2030 from say 37 percent to 42 percent would save roughly the same amount of carbon emissions as would replacing 50 percent efficient coal fired power plants with 300 GW of nuclear power plants operating at a 90 percent capacity factor 35 At a national level the average efficiency in 2004 of China s 307 GW of coal fired plants was 23 percent 36 By 2030 the World Energy Outlook 2008 projects an overall efficiency of roughly 35 6 percent If this could be raised to 41 percent for the 1 332 GW of coal fired capacity that China is expected to have on line by 2030 that would save more than four times as much carbon emission on the same basis as would the 36 GW of nuclear capacity that the International Energy Agency expects China to deploy by 2030 37 As I initially noted my analysis is not intended to make a case against nuclear power The balance of arguments for and against nuclear on economic safety environmental and other grounds is examined in the companion articles in this issue What I have wanted to express is a strong cautionary note to the confident projections of an inevitable nuclear renaissance In particular it is important

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  • Nuclear energy in developing countries - American Academy of Arts & Sciences
    financing the up front investments needed for nuclear plants is a major challenge In most of these countries nuclear power expanded only when governments facilitated private investment a practice that is at odds with present strong market liberalization policies For developing countries the pivotal problem is the allocation of scarce governmental resources financial authorities cannot easily justify subsidizing nuclear energy at the expense of more pressing needs in health education and poverty reduction Nor is the need for energy a sufficient compulsion Most of the anticipated growth in nuclear energy in the developing world is commonly ascribed to China and India In recent years they have become prime markets for nuclear technology imports because their indigenous nuclear programs have been at best qualified successes Yet those countries and indeed the rest of the developing world have abundant non nuclear energy alternatives too Cleaner and more efficient coal burning technologies would reduce emissions not only of greenhouse gases but also of soot and other by products that cause local and regional pollution and they could prove to be easier or less expensive to implement The average efficiency of coal burning thermoelectric generation stations is around 30 percent now and could be improved with current technology to reach the significantly higher average efficiency of such plants in the United States or Japan 6 to say nothing of carbon capture and storage CCS which could be available in a few years Also many developing nations have underexploited hydroelectric power options worldwide only around one third of economically viable hydroelectric potential has been tapped so far and in sub Saharan Africa that figure is far smaller Other renewable energy sources particularly biofuels for transportation also have good prospects 7 Therefore excluding the intention to develop nuclear weapons for reasons of national security the only sensible justification for developing countries to go nuclear is to enhance security of supply This was an important consideration some 30 years ago in France and Japan both of which installed large parks of nuclear reactors Today nuclear electricity accounts for 78 percent of the total electricity produced in France and 30 percent in Japan However there is a fundamental difference between the problems of these countries decades ago and the developing countries today France and Japan didn t have other options having exhausted at that time indigenous fuels or hydro to generate electricity The choice was to import fossil fuels gas and oil and even coal or set up nuclear reactors That s not the case today for many developing countries including the 16 in Table 1 Table 1 Potential Non Nuclear Sources of Electricity and Their Ratios of Reserves to Production in Years in 16 Developing Countries Country Potential source s with ratio s of reserves to production R P in years Algeria Abundant natural gas R P 43 Belarus Natural gas from Russia Chile Abundant hydro and good geothermal potentials Egypt Abundant natural gas R P 43 Greece Abundant coal R P 55 and peat good geothermal and wind potentials Indonesia Abundant biomass geothermal energy natural gas R P 33 oil R P 10 hydro Kazakhstan Very abundant natural gas R P 100 and oil R P 80 Kenya Abundant biomass good geothermal potential Malaysia Biomass natural gas available R P 35 Philippines Abundant biomass and geothermal resources Poland Abundant coal R P 47 to 108 Saudi Arabia Abundant oil R P 66 and natural gas Thailand Abundant biomass coal R P 63 to 96 and natural gas also available R P 12 Turkey Vast hydro resources 216 TWh technically and 130 TWh economically exploitable compared to 73 TWh planned 11 TWh under construction and 35 TWh installed by end 2005 United Arab Emirates Very abundant oil R P 97 and natural gas R P 100 small country with low demand Venezuela Abundant hydro oil R P 73 and natural gas R P 100 resources Source Survey of World Energy Resources 2007 World Energy Council 2008 The meaning of energy security when nuclear energy is involved however is a double edged sword there is no clear distinction between the technology needed for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy such as the production of electricity and the manufacture of nuclear weapons Nuclear reactors need enriched uranium to function and if the enrichment plants producing the fuel for reactors are devoted to producing uranium with a high degree of enrichment above 80 percent that product can be used for weapons Pakistan followed this route using information obtained about centrifuges enrichment by a Pakistani technician from a URENCO enrichment plant Even if a reactor operates with a low degree of enrichment 3 or 5 percent which is the case for most commercial nuclear reactors plutonium that can be separated chemically and used for weapons is produced in the fuel elements India did this as early as 1974 using an imported research reactor from Canada and North Korea did the same more recently in a small power plant Presently Brazil Germany Iran Japan The Netherlands the United States China Russia India and Pakistan have enrichment facilities Russia has an enrichment capacity of approximately 35 000 ton separative work unit SWU 8 year and all other countries together have another 30 000 ton SWU year About 100 to 120 ton SWU year is required as the fuel loading of a typical 1 000 MW reactor The existing enrichment capacity therefore is enough to supply the fuel needs to approximately 600 reactors of 1 000 MW almost double the existing units in operation Although vendors are keen to sell nuclear reactors to developing countries that by itself does not guarantee energy security since enriched uranium nuclear fuel has to be imported to keep the reactors operating For that reason many countries will certainly contemplate the desirability of enriching uranium domestically to avoid dependence on external supplies which they may fear will come associated with political pressures and demands unrelated to nuclear issues Two outstanding examples are the cases of Iran and Brazil In the 1970s both countries signed agreements with the Federal Republic of Germany to install enrichment plants the agreements were blocked by the United States In both cases it became clear that the United States was denying access to nuclear fuels if political conditions were not met In the case of Iran the perception was that the United States wanted to promote regime change in the case of Brazil that the United States was acting on suspicions that the military government had plans to manufacture nuclear weapons These perceptions led both governments to encourage national efforts to enrich uranium domestically rather than to accept the limitations imposed by the United States Over the years nuclear reactors for electricity production were installed in nine developing countries Argentina Brazil China India Iran Mexico Pakistan South Africa and North Korea Of these countries five China India Pakistan South Africa and North Korea developed nuclear weapons although South Africa later dismantled theirs Argentina and Brazil embarked on programs that could have led to weapons but decided to abandon the programs in 1991 Only Mexico does not have enrichment facilities It is unclear at this time if North Korea has them although it has facilities to reprocess nuclear fuel and separate weapons grade plutonium The others installed such facilities despite the fact that the number of reactors in operation in these countries did not justify from an economic viewpoint the investments in such large scale facilities There is thus a fundamental contradiction between efforts to avoid the proliferation of nuclear weapons and enthusiasm for the spread for commercial reasons of nuclear reactors to many developing countries Recent efforts by North Korea Iraq and Iran evidence this contradiction These problems are not new they started in the beginning of the nuclear age as early as 1945 At that time the United States had a monopoly on the technology and infrastructure needed to make nuclear weapons ranging from the uranium ore itself to the purification and enrichment to the high levels needed for weapons processes to the know how in building weapons With such clout the United States tried to put nuclear energy developments under international control The Soviet Union confident that it could develop nuclear weapons to break the U S monopoly found this unacceptable U S policy makers were probably under the delusion that it would take the Soviet Union a long time to build its own nuclear devices but within only four years of the Hiroshima Nagasaki explosions the Soviets had done so To keep some control of the spread of nuclear technology President Eisenhower s 1953 program Atoms for Peace offered U S help to countries with interest in the civilian uses of nuclear energy Under the program reactors using highly enriched uranium were donated to a number of countries for research purposes and for industrial and medical applications The rationale for such a move stimulated by well intentioned leading scientists in the United States such as I I Rabi was that the spread of nuclear technology was inevitable so efforts should be made to restrict it to peaceful uses The United States which then controlled the worldwide production of enriched uranium besides the Soviet Union established tight export control of sensitive nuclear materials Of course the program also had commercial motivations it promised to create a market for nuclear equipment produced in the United States Over the years the United States and the Soviet Union exported hundreds of research reactors using highly enriched uranium to many developing countries Some of the spent fuel from the reactors was returned to the United States and the Soviet Union and new shipments of fuel and other materials were closely monitored In practice however the program despite its positive aspects in making available the use of radioactive isotopes in industry and medicine often worked against the goal of discouraging nuclear proliferation because the dissemination of nuclear reactor technology led to the training of thousands of scientists and technicians and the spread of sensitive dangerous materials such as highly enriched uranium and plutonium This was certainly the case in India where an active nuclear establishment was built around the eminent scientist Homi J Bhabba In the 1950s and early 1960s the United Kingdom France and China developed nuclear weapons without significant external help except possibly in the case of China which was assisted to some degree by the Soviet Union The technical barriers to developing nuclear weapons using materials produced in those nuclear reactors nominally dedicated to peaceful uses aren t insurmountable and the contention that nuclear technology cannot be developed indigenously by developing countries has proved to be false That any modern industrialized country could develop nuclear weapons led to determined effort in the late 1960s to stop the further proliferation of such weapons to other states horizontal proliferation In the 1960s there were also very strong concerns with testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere and with the frightening increase of nuclear weapons in the five countries that possessed them especially the United States and the Soviet Union both with their thousands of weapons vertical proliferation The Non Proliferation Treaty NPT adopted in 1968 is the main instrument used to address these problems The Treaty divided states in two categories nuclear weapons states NWS defined as those that had manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other explosive nuclear device prior to January 1967 the United States the Soviet Union the United Kingdom France and China and non nuclear weapons states NNWS which undertake not to manufacture or otherwise to acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices In return for this undertaking NNWS are entitled to participate in the fullest possible exchange of equipment materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of atomic energy This grand bargain was very difficult to achieve though The NNWS kept the inalienable right to the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and the NWS agreed to pursue negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament These negotiations led practically nowhere and today the NWS commitment to pursue nuclear disarmament is generally considered mostly a rhetorical gesture A few countries such as India Pakistan Israel Brazil and Argentina wanted to keep their options open and so did not accept the limitations imposed by the Treaty indeed India Pakistan and Israel produced weapons in the subsequent years The NPT gave the IAEA the job of establishing safeguards and overviewing activities of the signatories in the nuclear area in order to avoid proliferation Today essentially all nuclear facilities in NNWS are under safeguards Nevertheless the regime was not in the past sufficient to deter countries from developing nuclear capability so the nuclear powers have tried other approaches to prevent inhibit or delay the appearance of new NWS In addition to physical security measures to secure enriched uranium and plutonium and measures to keep tight control on exports two other approaches have been tried by the United States to curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons Sanctions sticks to punish nations that embark in such a direction Libya s renunciation of its nuclear program is often given as an example of the success of this approach Rewards carrots such as trade or financial benefits North Korea s behavior although somewhat erratic is given as an example of success with this approach All of these mechanisms have delayed to some extent several countries efforts toward acquiring the capacity to develop nuclear weapons A specific security measure that proved moderately successful was the Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors RERTR program started by the United States before 1980 and soon followed by a similar program from the Soviet Union The 250 research and test reactors in use in 1978 were reduced to approximately 134 by 2007 and most of the remaining ones are in the former Soviet Union and in the United States 9 However more recently and particularly after the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001 it was realized that the stocks of enriched uranium still remaining represented a real threat of proliferation in some problematic countries and that redoubled efforts should be undertaken to recover the material As an example in 2002 the Nuclear Threat Initiative safely moved 48 kg of highly enriched uranium enough to manufacture two nuclear weapons from the defunct Vinca nuclear reactor near Belgrade to a facility in Russia Another example is Congo which received the HEU research reactor that the United States displayed in 1958 at the second Atoms for Peace conference Less than two years later Belgian colonial rule in Congo ended In 1970 the United States replaced the HEU reactor with a TRIGA Mark II reactor operated with LEU In the process two fuel rods with fresh fuel went missing only one was eventually found 10 The nuclear renaissance now promoted by the United States has some similarities with the Atoms for Peace program of President Eisenhower and runs the risk of repeating and amplifying the problems created by that program Setting up dozens perhaps hundreds of large nuclear reactors in developing countries means that enormous amounts of enriched uranium will be necessary The plutonium produced in these reactors could be used for weapons and further the enormous amount of radioactive products in the spent fuel in the uranium rods will have to be disposed of Associated with the nuclear renaissance are Generation IV GEN IV reactors operating with recycled plutonium Future nuclear systems such as those that are studied in the GEN IV program and the so called advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative from the United States are all aimed at making nuclear energy more sustainable either by increasing system efficiency or by using closed fuel cycles in which fissile materials are either partially or totally recycled Such an approach will involve large reprocessing of fuel rods to extract plutonium Significant scientific and technical challenges must be resolved before these systems are ready for deployment which is not expected before 2035 2040 11 It is clear therefore that a renaissance would exacerbate two sets of problems that exist already with the present generation of nuclear reactors 1 Transportation of fuel rods shipped from producing countries and the return of spent fuel unless they are reprocessed locally and 2 Building up local enrichment facilities to avoid external dependence The widespread circulation of fissile materials particularly in some politically problematic countries increases the probability of a fraction of this material falling into the hands of a terrorist group Such concerns led a group of very senior former U S government officials George P Shultz William J Perry Henry A Kissinger and Sam Nunn branded as the gang of four 12 to the conviction that there is no solution to the problem of the spread of nuclear weapons except to seek a world without nuclear weapons Naive as it might sound and none of these former senior officials could be considered pacifists or naive the proposal made some sense from the U S perspective They pointed out that nuclear weapons were essential to maintaining international security during the Cold War because they were a means of deterrence which was made obsolete by the end of the Cold War Presently however there is the possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of non state organizations and terrorists to which the concept of nuclear deterrence does not apply at all Eliminating nuclear weapons altogether and strictly controlling the circulation of materials usable for the manufacture of nuclear weapons would be the only solution to avoid that nightmare There is a less benign interpretation of the motivations of Shultz and colleagues namely that whereas immediately after the end of World War II the only way to stop the Soviet Union from overrunning Western Europe was to strengthen the nuclear weapons capacity of the United States today the situation has reversed itself Western Europe is in no real danger from Russian takeover today and U S conventional forces are dominant all over the world with hundreds of military bases spread around the

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