Nuclear energy acceptance and potential role to meet future energy demand. Which technical/scientific achievements are needed?

Schenkel, Roland
June 2012
AIP Conference Proceedings;6/19/2012, Vol. 1442 Issue 1, p356
Academic Journal
25 years after Chernobyl, the Fukushima disaster has changed the perspectives of nuclear power. The disaster has shed a negative light on the independence, reliability and rigor of the national nuclear regulator and plant operator and the usefulness of the international IAEA guidelines on nuclear safety. It has become clear that, in the light of the most severe earthquake in the history of Japan, the plants at Fukushima Daiichi were not adequately protected against tsunamis. Nuclear acceptance has suffered enormously and has changed the perspectives of nuclear energy dramatically in countries that have a very risk-sensitive population, Germany is an example. The paper analyses the reactions in major countries and the expected impact on future deployment of reactors and on R&D activities. On the positive side, the disaster has demonstrated a remarkable robustness of most of the 14 reactors closest to the epicentre of the Tohoku Seaquake although not designed to an event of level 9.0. Public acceptance can only be regained with a rigorous and worldwide approach towards inherent reactor safety and design objectives that limit the impact of severe accidents to the plant itself (like many of the new Gen III reactors). A widespread release of radioactivity and the evacuation (temporary or permanent) of the population up to 30 km around a facility are simply not acceptable. Several countries have announced to request more stringent international standards for reactor safety. The IAEA should take this move forward and intensify and strengthen the different peer review mission schemes. The safety guidelines and peer reviews should in fact become legally binding for IAEA members. The paper gives examples of the new safety features developed over the last 20 years and which yield much safer reactors with lesser burden to the environment under severe accident conditions. The compatibility of these safety systems with the current concepts for fusion-fission hybrids, which have recently been proposed for energy production, is critically reviewed. There are major challenges remaining that are shortly outlined. Scientific/technical achievements that are required in the light of the Fukushima accident are highlighted.


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