Thursday, 6 September 2007

APEC - and so it begins

It's all happening now.

The announcements have come pretty much as anticipated.

The Age
The Sydney Morning Herald [Small business section in a tourism article? A bit buried maybe?]

Australia is moving to join both initiatives [yes, there are two things to discuss here].

First comes the Generation IV International Forum [Gen-IV]. This partnership has existed for some time now. Originating in the west, slightly behind the Russian lead INPRO initiative onging within the IAEA, Gen-IV is principally technically oriented. The work involves applied science and engineering projects to develop advanced reactor designs with vastly improved fuel cycles, lower waste generation, still further improved safety and security features, shorter build times and lower cost. The participation in Gen-IV and INPRO involves considerable overlap and the two are working well together in a fairly complimentary way. INPRO has developed assessment criteria for potential Gen-IV designs for example that could be applied to the concepts currently being further developed within Gen-IV.

I imagine ANSTO will be the principal point of contact for this work - but OPAL was not designed for some of the most exciting of this research [testing of advanced fuel designs etc.] and may require some modifications to fully support the needs of the various programmes. This is why, for example the USA has NIST, ORNL and others for the heavy duty neutron scattering / materials science as well as the ATR - which exists principally to test advanced fuel and core materials. The commencement of relevant OPAL modifications will please me immensely. How exciting will it be that the world's newest research reactor initiates such a significant modification? Evidence of rapidly changing [and expanding] nuclear interest here in Australia and abroad!

Next is the much less technically exciting GNEP, which I have recently posted about here and here. I say less technical because the advanced plants [burner reactors] will most likely come out of the Gen-IV programme. Unless GNEP grows to eventually swallow Gen-IV as it very well may do. GNEP is now at least the third iteration of 'bigger and better' nuclear initiatives involving the USA. Previously initiated and ongoing in parallel with the aforementioned Gen-IV, there are the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, Nuclear Power 2010, the nuclear hydrogen initiative and probably a programme or two more.

My guess is that GNEP and Gen-IV are being bundled to focus on the research activities that come with Gen-IV and the US can put another run on the board as far as GNEP participation is concerned [i.e. about as much of a win-win that each could expect from such an announcement].

All I can add to the previous GNEP posts is that, as reported above, we are 'reserving the right to enrich' and proceeding with the process to join the partnership on the condition that Australia accept no waste from foreign states. Also, the 'meeting in Vienna' that is mentioned in some of the media reports will occur around [immediately prior to, I think] the IAEA General Conference. Within the international nuclear world, this is the time of the year for BIG announcements - so let's all brace ourselves and hope for the best.

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