Heat Applications

Nuclear heat is already being used for various direct heating applications (IAEA-TEC — DOC-1056, 1998). Although the primary utilisation of nuclear power has been and is likely to be for electricity generation, interest in heat applications is growing. Co­generation of heat and electricity and dedicated heating reactors have already been established, particularly in Russia. Operational experience exists on over 60 reactors supplying heat for district heating, seawater desalination and other industrial processes. The utilisation to date has been generally for low-temperature applications.

Reactor designs are being further developed for co-generation, district heating, seawater desalination and low-temperature process heat. These include water-cooled, PWR systems but also more innovative technologies including lead-bismuth reactors.

High — and medium-temperature applications are less well-advanced and have only been developed at laboratory or small scale. There are extensive programmes for high — temperature helium gas reactors which could be used for process heat applications that require high temperatures, e. g. processes that include oil refinement, coal gasification and also hydrogen generation (covered more elaborately in Section 17.6.3). High-temperature reactors (HTRs) could also be used in co-generation mode for district heating and desalination.

The IAEA is supporting various activities in promoting advanced nuclear energy heat applications (Nuclear Power, IAEA). The International Working Group on Gas Cooled reactors met in the UK in September 2002 to review activities in the field and make recommendations for future efforts. The Group noted that gas turbine high-temperature reactors currently under development are well suited to desalination, operating in a co­generation mode.

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