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Industrial Applications of Nuclear Energy

Background: Nuclear energy can be used for various industrial applications, such as seawater desalination, hydrogen production, district heating or cooling, the extraction of tertiary oil resources and process heat applications such as cogeneration, coal to liquids conversion and assistance in the synthesis of chemical feedstock. A large demand for nuclear energy for industrial applications is expected to grow rapidly on account of steadily increasing energy consumption, the finite availability of fossil fuels and the increased sensitivity to the environmental impacts of fossil fuel combustion. With increasing prices for conventional oil, unconventional oil resources are increasingly utilized to meet such growing demand, especially for transport. Nuclear energy offers a low carbon alternative and has important potential advantages over other sources being considered for future energy. There are no technological impediments to extracting heat and steam from a nuclear power plant. This has been proven for low temperatures (<200°C) with nuclear assisted district heating and desalination with an experience of approximately 750 reactor operation years from around 70 nuclear power plants. Detailed site specific analyses are essential for determining the best energy option. The development of small and medium sized reactors would therefore be better suited for cogeneration and would facilitate non-electric applications of nuclear energy. The possibility of large scale distribution systems for heat, steam and electricity supplied from a central nuclear heat source (e.g. a multiproduct energy centre) could attract and serve different kinds of consumers concentrated in industrial parks. Objective: This publication analyses industrial energy demand based on current practices and provides an overview of the use of nuclear energy for industrial systems and processes with a strong demand for process heat and steam and power. It describes the technical concepts for combined nuclear–industrial complexes that are being pursued in various Member States today, and it presents some of the concepts developed in the past. Scope: This publication analyses industrial energy demand based on current practices and describes requirements for nuclear process heat reactors to become suitable for industrial applications. This publication provides information on the use of nuclear power for industrial applications for stakeholders in academia, industry, government agencies and public institutions. Guidance provided here, describing good practices, represents expert opinion but does not constitute recommendations made on the basis of a consensus of Member States. Structure: Section 2 reviews current and future energy demand and use in industry. Section 3 explores the industrial applications of nuclear reactors and the requirements they have to meet. It includes descriptions of past and present nuclear process heat reactor concepts. Sections 4–8 each focus on a specific major industry — petroleum, petrochemicals, hydrogen, steel and other industries, and industrial heat applications, respectively. Section 9 concludes.
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