High-temperature reactors and industrial heat application

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Reducing industrial carbon emissions is one of the most difficult challenges on the path to net zero by 2050, due to the magnitude of greenhouse gas emissions from the industrial sector and technical requirements for heat in addition to power. High-temperature reactors are promising Generation IV nuclear technologies that can supply process heat for a variety of industrial applications.

The NEA organised a virtual workshop on 7 October 2021 to explore the opportunities and challenges associated with High-temperature reactors for industrial heat applications. The overall aim of the workshop was to foster a common understanding of high-temperature reactor s among a range of stakeholders including end-users, technology developers and policymakers, and discuss effective approaches for the practical deployment of this technology and its enabling environment. The workshop also addressed the potential contribution of high-temperature reactors towards national and global decarbonisation targets.

“High-temperature reactors can provide heat in excess of 700 °C and in some cases even higher. This provides capability to replace fossils fuels entirely in industrial heat applications,” noted NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV during his opening remarks. “If we are to really reach net zero, we will have to use all the tools in our toolkit. And high-temperature reactors are going to be extremely important in helping to reach those decarbonisation goals.”

With sessions on technology perspectives, economy and market insights, and national strategies, the workshop provided a forum for experts from the public and private sectors to exchange views on the technological and economic features of high-temperature reactors and the surrounding market structures. The discussion highlighted the key characteristics of high-temperature reactors such as their application of passive safety mechanisms that assure very high levels of safety and their flexibility in terms of location requirements that allow these advanced reactors to be placed close to industrial facilities to serve demand for process heat. It was recognised that the regulatory approaches for high-temperature reactor will need to address the coupling and colocation and siting of nuclear power reactors with and other industrial facilities.

Increasing certainty in cost prospects, development timelines and regulatory requirements will help this technology attract more interests from industrial sectors and accelerate communication and consideration toward actual deployment. A summary report of the workshop and its key findings is in preparation and will be provided online. It will analyse the conditions necessary to enable deployment of high-temperature reactors for industrial heat applications.

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