Secretary of Energy Advisory Board Task Force on the Future of Nuclear Power

Secretary of Energy Advisory Board

You are here

The Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) Task Force on the Future of Nuclear Power is composed of SEAB members and independent experts. Nuclear power is an important carbon free power source for the U.S. and the world. Beginning around 2030, a significant number of operating U.S. nuclear reactors will reach 60 years of age and a considerable portion of these are likely to go out of service. Utility planning for carbon free baseload replacement capacity will start years earlier. Accordingly, interest is increasing in exploring the possibility of major new deployment of nuclear power in the time period 2030 -2050. 

To be successful, any nuclear deployment must satisfy the following metrics:

  • Safety, including compliance with existing or modified regulatory requirements
  • Technical readiness
  • Proliferation resistance
  • Low cost of generation - through two lenses:  private costs and private costs that include the cost of C02 emissions avoided
  • Effective nuclear waste management

PURPOSE OF THE TASK FORCE:

The SEAB Task Force on the Future of Nuclear Power will describe the landscape that must be crossed to go from today's situation of reliance largely on light water reactors to a situation in the period 2030 to 2050 where one or many nuclear technologies have reached technical and commercial maturity and are deploying at a rate that has the possibility of carbon free nuclear power generation contributing 20 percent of global electricity generation. The Task Force should devote attention to:

  1. Regulatory requirements such as design certification, construction and operating licenses.
  2. Historical operating performance such as capacity factors, O&M expenses of U.S and other country reactors.
  3. Evolving end-user requirements for nuclear energy systems, which might move beyond electricity production only to include a broader range of energy products and services (including, but not limited to, process heat, hydrogen production, and desalination).
  4. The set of candidate reactor technologies that are of sufficient technical maturity and development promise to evolve to a deployed technology, at scale.
  5. Requirements for new development and test facilities that can serve one or more technologies under development with the possibility that several countries will be interested in sharing the cost and use of such facilities.
  6. The sequence of (perhaps overlapping) tasks that need to be completed in order to achieve the goal.
  7. The tasks include at least: 
  • Reactor design
  • Component development, testing, and certification, (fuel pins/assemblies, pumps, valves, control systems)
  • Engineering the integrated system
  • Subsystem fabrication and manufacturing
  • Assembly and test of prototype system and integration with balance of plant
  • Procurement, construction, and deployment plans with supporting contracts
  • Licensing reviews and safety authorizations

The Task Force's principal charge is to develop an illustrative schedule with a range of estimates, for the time and cost necessary to pass technical milestones for each task.  We anticipate that the range is likely to be at least 10 to 15 years to achieve sustained production levels, with an order-of-magnitude development cost of at least $10 billion dollars.  This time scale points to the urgency of considering the future of nuclear power now if there is to be an opportunity for different technologies to have a material impact in the 2030-2050 period. 

The Task Force is also asked to address four interrelated questions:

  1. How would the substantial development costs be financed? There are three possibilities: the Federal government (using one or more direct or indirect assistance mechanisms), the private sector, or a government-industry partnership.
  2. Are there prospects for sharing these large development costs with other countries such as China, France, India, Japan, Russia, and South Korea that have interest in expanding nuclear electricity generation?
  3. Beyond development cost, there will be substantial cost for one or more "first-of­-kind"reactors. While substantial, these early deployment costs will occur after regulatory approvals are received and technology and cost risks are narrowed.  Are there possibilities for Federal loan guarantees, early purchase for Federal use, etc., to support a portion of the costs of this early deployment phase?
  4. How would this development/commercialization project be managed? There is much to be said for private sector management that would benefit from practical commercial experience and avoid the cumbersome procurement regulations that accompany any form of U.S. government assistance (that would need to be sustained over several administrations).

In order to maintain a practical scope for a one-year effort, the Task Force should not address the implications of greatly increased deployment of reactors for the front and back end of the fuel cycle. 

The offices within the Under Secretary for Science and Energy will support the Task Force's work, as needed.  The membership of the SEAB Task Force should include one or more members of the DOE's Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee (NEAC).

DOCUMENTS:

DOE Assessment of the SEAB Report on The Future of Nuclear Power

Final Report of the Task Force on the Future of Nuclear Power

MEMBERS:

  • John Deutch, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Task Force Chair*
  • Michael Greenstone, University of Chicago*
  • Shirley Ann Jackson, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute*
  • William Madia, Stanford University
  • Richard Meserve, Carnegie Institution for Science*
  • Dan Reicher, Stanford University*
  • Joy L. Rempe, Rempe and Associates, LLC
  • Gary Samore, Harvard University*
  • Clay Sell, Hunt Energy Horizons
  • Phil Sharp, Resources for the Future
  • Steven Specker, (Retired) Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)
  • Joseph C. Turnage, (Retired) Constellation Energy Nuclear Group

* Denotes SEAB Member

SCHEDULE:

The Task Force will submit quarterly reports to SEAB of its progress and submit a final report by December 2016.

DESIGNATED FEDERAL OFFICIAL:

Karen Gibson, Director, Office of Secretarial Boards and Councils.