Polish scientists will coordinate European-US cooperation on development of nuclear technologies

NCBJ will coordinate R&D works on High Temperature Reactors (HTR) to be conducted within the “GEMINI+” European-US cooperation project. GEMINI+ is one of the five projects from Świerk accepted for financing in the most recent Horizon 2020 EURATOM call for proposals.

European Commission has just announced results of the most recent Horizon 2020 EURATOM call for proposals. Five among seven projects submitted by NCBJ scientists have been qualified for financing.

The fact that as much as five our large projects got green light has once more confirmed that NCBJ is a place where the largest research projects undertaken in Europe may be successfully accomplished – points out Dr. Krzysztof Kurek, NCBJ Director General – Seven our projects were competing with almost one hundred of projects submitted to EURATOM by other leading European research centres. In such a good company, 71% effectiveness in winning funds is an excellent indicator, indeed.

Within framework of the €4 million worth GEMINI+ project, NCBJ scientists will be coordinating international preliminary works aimed to implement HTRs. The project is an extension of a cooperation agreement reached in 2014 between the NGNP Industrial Alliance formed by the US nuclear industry and the Nuclear Cogeneration Industrial Initiative (NC2I) European consortium. Almost thirty institutions from several European countries and USA, Japan and South Korea will be identifying prerequisites/licensing methods indispensable to implement the HTR technology and look for potential consumers of the industry-grade heat produced by HTRs. They are also to work out recommendations concerning development of an European demonstrator of the HTR technology and to indicate directions of further technology development.

Even if several HTRs are already operational in various places around the world, the technology is still not commercially available. Experts estimate that global industrial demand for such solutions might be big, several hundred units just in Europe. In Poland HTRs will be used primarily as sources of industrial-grade heat for chemical industry plants and oil refineries. “Clean” utilization of Polish coal is also considered.

Our GEMINI+ project has been evaluated for 14.5 points out of 15 available. Such a high score was certainly one of the reasons why Polish scientists have been assigned the task to coordinate US-European efforts aimed to develop the nuclear co-generation technology – said Professor Grzegorz Wrochna, NC2I Chairman and NCBJ Director Proxy for International Cooperation – This is a pretty strategic field of knowledge and technology, especially if a need to restore competitiveness of European economy is taken into account. Nuclear technologies have already found many practical applications in everyday life, including power generation, medicine, material research/engineering, safety systems etc. Poland has a proven track record in that field.

NCBJ scientists are also involved in some research projects concerning engineering materials for future nuclear reactors. New solutions are searched for in view of extremely harsh environments in which the materials will be used: extremely high temperatures, exposition to very high-intensity radiation, and all the ensuing chemical and physical factors. The GEMMA project is focussed on new materials for 4th generation reactors already in the design phase; therefore  many industrial partners interested in fast applications are involved in that project. In particular, reactor constructional materials and protective coatings used in nuclear facilities are tested. All the tested materials are to be surface-modified by means of ion implantation in order to increase their resistance to external factors. Solutions applicable in future thermonuclear (fusion) reactors are also included within the scope of another project, M4F. NCBJ-assigned sub-tasks include study of evolution of tribological properties of engineering materials under the influence of factors possibly present in their operational environment. NCBJ Material Testing Lab plays a key role in that research. Polish scientists participate in the FOREVER project aimed to secure supplies of nuclear fuel for European research reactors. Probabilistic methods applicable in safety analyses of nuclear facilities are being improved/extended within the NARSIS project aimed to develop some tools to effectively support managing severe nuclear accidents (like failure of the Fukushima power plant in result of a tsunami) and to find optimal solutions to minimize potential consequences of such accidents. The Bayes network techniques are extensively studied to that end. Unique competences in that area worked out for many years in the NCBJ MANHAZ Excellence Centre will be utilized to the maximum possible extent.