World Nuclear Association Blog

New WNA group to look at fuel technologies

(Working Groups, Staff) Permanent link


Over the last few decades the nuclear industry has made significant improvements in the reliability of zirconium-clad uranium dioxide ceramic fuel, but the essential structure and composition of nuclear fuel has barely changed. Various features have boosted the mechanical and corrosion performance of fuel assemblies, but there has been little incentive to develop fuels with higher burn-up or power density. This is due in part to the focus on reliability improvements – but is also because uranium was very cheap for a long period.

This situation is changing. While Zr-clad uranium oxide fuel offers reliable and cost-effective operating characteristics, several imperatives urge nuclear fuel improvements in terms of:

Utilization of mined uranium: there is a push to improve the sustainability credentials for uranium use, in terms of energy extraction from the original mined material.
Maximizing operational power rating: leading to plant efficiencies and economic benefits.
Minimizing spent fuel volume & radiotoxicity: The transmutation (destruction) of transuranic elements within new fuels may provide cost-effective options for dealing with these materials.
Further improving materials reliability and safety margins: lowering the risk of fuel failure (cladding breach) is always beneficial for reactor operators.

With these motivations in mind, the WNA is starting up a new Working Group to discuss and assess the range of water-reactor fuel technologies with reasonable prospects for commercialization, including: ceramic claddings, higher conductivity ceramic matrices, graphite-matrix coated-particle fuel pellets.

The Group will collate and assess these technologies in terms of potential cost savings, waste management benefits, and will identify licensing pathways and potential funding partnerships.

Julian F. Kelly recently joined WNA to take responsibility for this exciting initiative.

Julian has a materials science background (PhD - Australian National University) and for the last 3.5 years he worked for a small Norwegian energy technology company that has undertaken to develop a thorium-MOX fuel for light water reactors. He oversaw the design of a sophisticated trial irradiation experiment for this fuel, and he formulated investment strategies and major funding proposals for this advanced fuel. Julian previously served as Nuclear Counsellor/Attaché at the Australian Embassy in Vienna where he followed numerous technical issues/programs at the IAEA for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).

Julian has also worked as a scientific advisor for nuclear issues for the Australian Department of Defence, and he has worked in the Australian mining sector prior to that.

36th Annual Symposium Programme online

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The draft programme for the 36th Annual WNA Symposium is now online. The Symposium will see the launch of the 2011 WNA Fuel Market Report. There will also be sessions on New Build, Safety and Communications. Register now to take advantage of early bird rates.

Ian Emsley joins to enhance WNA's Market Report

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Ian EmsleyIan Emsley has recently joined WNA to work as Senior Project Manager on the nuclear fuel market analysis and in particular this year’s Market Report. Over time, he hopes to widen the scope of the analysis to include explicit consideration of other energy sources and the inter-fuel competitive outlook, which apart from enhancing the learning from the WNA scenario work should lead to greater opportunities for the WNA to extend and strengthen its links with other organisations analysing the future of energy supply.

Ian believes that nuclear power has received a raw deal from policy makers and the public; partly it seems through ignorance and partly through tendentious lobbying by environmental NGOs. He has been impressed by the depth of knowledge of WNA staff and believes that the WNA is well placed to present some of the facts and challenges of nuclear power in a way that will assist the formulation of more balanced assessments.

"The production of well-respected analysis of future energy market development can play a valuable role in highlighting some of the barriers to environmentally sound and secure energy provision, which is critical to meeting the aspirations of the world’s population to a decent standard of living", Ian told WNA Update, "WNA analysis of energy market development can help set the agenda for efforts to overcome these barriers insofar as they affect nuclear power."

Before starting work for the WNA in April, Ian was an independent consultant working in the field of commodity market research and environmental policy analysis. Earlier in his career, Ian spent 25 years with mining company Anglo American plc.

36th Annual WNA Symposium Registration Open

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Registration for the 36th Annual Symposium (London) is now open http://www.wna-symposium.org. There is an early-bird discount available plus reduced rates for WNA member company employees.


The conference will address:

  • What lessons can be learned from Fukushima, and by what measures can the nuclear industry demonstrate that it will avoid such events in the future?
  • How does Fukushima shape the challenges facing nuclear communicators?
  • Is it still possible for Europe and North America to get onto the fast track of new nuclear build?
  • If and as countries proceed with their plans for new reactors, what needs to be done to maximise efficiency in the new-build process while ensuring reliability and safety in new reactors?
  • As regulators and industry come to terms with Fukushima, is it possible to improve the international legal and regulatory framework so as to help the industry to commit with confidence to long-term nuclear projects?

The Symposium will also see the launch of WNA's 2011 Fuel Market Report.

WNA's Greg Kaser to support member companies in developing robust supply chains

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In anticipation of an epoch of worldwide nuclear new build, WNA is devoting increased attention to supporting companies and investors in the task of constructing robust supply chains to ensure timely and efficient construction of nuclear power plants. The Supply Chain Working Group was set up in 2010 and has met three times since, in London, Beijing and Chicago. With a full agenda and the aim of publishing a market report on the global nuclear market, Greg Kaser was recruited in April 2011 to manage this initiative.

Greg KaserGreg started his career with the UK Atomic Energy Authority, working at the Risley nuclear establishment near Warrington, at Sellafield, and at the then fast reactor site of Dounreay in Scotland. Following a short placement at the European University Institute near Florence in 1987-88, during which he undertook research on the international regulation of employee safety in the nuclear industry, Greg moved into consultancy. Focussing on economic and social development, Greg undertook assignments for the European Commission, the UK Department for International Development and the Department of Trade and Industry, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Asian Development Bank in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. Over the last ten years, Greg acted as project director for part of the UK’s Global Threat Reduction Programme aimed at helping develop alternative employment in Russia’s closed nuclear cities.

Greg is looking to meet many of the main nuclear component suppliers over the coming months. "The industry is addressing its offer so as to position itself competitively," Greg told WNA Update. "Utilities and suppliers are investing in advanced and emerging economies to develop alternatives to fossil fuels. WNA is analysing the market potential for nuclear new build and major reactor refurbishment and upgrading. We aim to develop the knowledge base on the situation in leading markets, including licensing and policy requirements (for example, on the localization of supply). We are taking a look at market trends in standardization, modularization, procurement arrangements and financing models. Managing the supply chain to ensure quality, conformity and value is crucial to reducing perceptions of nuclear power as a risk-laden option within the investment and public policy communities."

WNA DG John Ritch speaks at the IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety

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The lesson of Fukushima, from the event and its worldwide reverberations, is that our response must combine ever safer practice with ever better public education. Without both, the foundations of nuclear power will remain dangerously fragile, and so too will the prospects for the worldwide clean-energy revolution on which our planet’s environmental future so crucially depends. That was the message delivered in a speech by WNA Director General John Ritch at the IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety.

In the speech Fukushima - Shaping a Sound Response, John Ritch pointed out that the world population will continue its explosive growth, global electricity demand will continue to grow even faster, the need to cut worldwide carbon emissions remains essential and it remains true that we can achieve a global clean-energy revolution only with a vastly expanded use of nuclear power.

The IAEA Ministerial Conference was called by the IAEA to draw on the lessons from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi NPP in order to strengthen nuclear safety throughout the world.