• Research in advanced nuclear development and planning

      Kuca, Michael; Perkins, Robert A.; Schnabel, William E.; Barnes, David L. (2014-12)
      This project began as an examination of small and mini nuclear power plants as an emergent energy technology capable of sustained base-load power generation in northern climates. Literature review immediately demonstrated Alaska should remain current on small and mini nuclear power plants because commercial vendors are promoting their products to state leaders as certain solutions. Is Alaska prepared to receive, operate, and decommission advanced nuclear technology as an alternative to traditional hydrocarbon power plants? The graduate committee encouraged me to facilitate discussions with Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP) leadership in reference to their 2010 study on small modular reactors. Gwen Holdman, Brent Sheets, and George Roe offered great encouragement for this project and allowed me to participated in nuclear related meetings with affiliates. In fall 2013, ACEP was hosting Idaho National Laboratory guests to discuss areas of common research interest. I was invited to prepare a short presentation of this project to Dr. Steven Aumeier, Director of Center for Advanced Energy Studies and Michael Hagood, Director of Program Development. ACEP and INL later determined a mobile mini reactor design for remote terrestrial deployment represents common research interests, and INL funded three UAF student fellowships at the Center for Space Nuclear Research (CSNR) Dr. Stephen Howe, Director of CSNR, allocated a team of six graduate fellows to explore terrestrial applications of a tungsten fuel matrix currently under design for nuclear thermal propulsion. UAF students selected for CSNR fellowship included Haley McIntyre, Alana Vilagi, and me. The team designed a Passively Operating Lead Arctic Reactor (POLAR), presented the POLAR design to INL staff and industry leaders and a subsequent poster was provided for the INE conference for Alaska Energy Leaders in October 2014. In addition to exceptional engineering experience, I was able to advance the graduate project in areas of technology, policy, economics, and energy infrastructure requirements needed to accept advanced nuclear technology. Concurrently, under a memorandum of agreement between the University of Alaska and Alaska Command ALCOM, I was able to advance the project to consider military applications of small modular reactors with ALCOM Energy Steering Group. It was in this context where I evaluated military installation energy usage in interior Alaska as compared to production of integral pressurized water reactors likely to emerge first in the commercial sector, and the ability of Alaska military to adopt this technology. As a side project, select courses of action were prepared and briefed to the commanding general of ALCOM should the nuclear option become attractive to the military. What began as an independent examination of small and mini nuclear power plants to satisfy a three-credit project requirement became an incredible collaboration among civilian, state, university, military, and industrial shareholders of the Alaska energy sector. Specific recognition for this report belongs to Haley McIntyre for her contribution to policy frameworks and as editor for this report, and Alana Vilagi for her contribution to process heat applications. The graduate committee along with ACEP leadership, INL-CSNR, and ALCOM should all be recognized as facilitators in this review of nuclear power in Alaska. The following report is presented in six chapters. The first two chapters attempt to introduce the reader to the current state of commercial nuclear energy in the nation as a pretext to developing the advanced reactor designs. Modifications to the existing framework are provided and the total cost of nuclear in Alaska is considered as opportunities and barriers to deployment are evaluated. As a conclusion, scenarios are developed to explain how this technology may contribute to our energy sector in the future. This project was unfunded, and its findings are intended to present a neutral examination of emergent nuclear design in the Alaska energy sector.