Continued Operation of Existing Plant

2.1. INTRODUCTION/OBJECTIVES

There are approximately 440 nuclear reactors in operation in about 30 countries worldwide. For the continuation of nuclear power, the most important requirement is the safe and efficient operation of these reactors. This chapter summarises the principal issues associated with the operation of current generation nuclear power plant. These relate to the incentives for continued nuclear generation (including its benefits as a carbon free generator), international policy, economics, safety, extension of plant life and public safety concerns. These issues are covered in more detail in separate succeeding chapters.

At the time of writing, the main focus of the nuclear industry in most countries is the continued operation of existing plant rather than on the building of new plant. This is particularly true in Europe and the US. However, some building is continuing in the Asian nuclear power states. The anticipated nuclear generating capacity at least until 2010 is expected to be comprised mainly of generation from plants in operation today (Chamberlain, 1997).

The main criteria for continued plant operation are that the plants must remain safe to the satisfaction of the regulators but also economically viable to meet the requirements of the utilities and the stakeholders. Other pre-conditions that are likely to apply to continued civil nuclear power generation in general, including new build, are separation from weapons programmes, openness and good communication of the issues and effective waste management.

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