About PHYSOR 2020
Transition to a scalable nuclear future
In 1954, Lewis Strauss (AEC) said:
“Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter...”
Today, long after the dawn of the atomic age, this now infamous quote is mocked. Nuclear energy is definitely not too cheap to meter! In the UK, with an absence of state-subsidy, and the requirement for vendors and utilities to pay the full costs of decommissioning and disposal; nuclear new build is very expensive.
Unfortunately for the consumer, second generation nuclear power stations are approaching end-of-life and the base-load capacity is not yet there to replace them. We need a transition to new stations coming online, often with different designs to those we are familiar with, perhaps from different vendors from those we are used to working with, all at a point in time where safety requirements are well-recognised and costs of decommissioning are built-in. To get this transition to happen requires investment, and a lot of it, against a backdrop of increasingly cheap energy from other sources. To encourage nuclear new build, governments may agree strike prices significantly above wholesale electricity prices, ultimately hitting the consumer in the pocket, and leaving them asking the question -
Why nuclear? Does it have to be this way?
For nuclear energy to be competitive and to have a secure future, it must be scalable. Scalable to demand, scalable to distribute, and scalable to manage. This may require new technologies to be designed and new methods of manufacture to be developed. To deliver these, new modelling tools may need to be written and new simulations run. The key is to not do more than you need to, and to do it just-in-time. Many questions might be answered by small modular reactors, but we don’t know yet. Many problems might be solved through the ability to undertake high-fidelity coupled simulations on leadership-class computing systems, but we need to remember that it’s a waste of time doing this if simpler methods will suffice.