Challenge: Rejuvenate nuclear technology infrastructure and facilities.
How: There is an urgent need to rejuvenate and build the infrastructure, facilities, and skilled associated scientific staff involved in the research, testing, development, and deployment of advanced nuclear technologies. Maintaining this national testbed is critical to support vibrant commercial nuclear businesses.
Background: Developing new technologies and their use in nuclear applications is an expensive proposition. Due to the high level of quality and reliability required for nuclear applications, navigating the complex path from development to implementation and profitable production can be a daunting and cost prohibitive process. Ensuring that there is clear guidance for new and existing suppliers will lead to competitive and cost-effective options available in nuclear technologies markets. In addition, having reliable, consistent guidance will assist regulators in quickly processing new applications.
Developing the national assets of research and test facilities, be they government-operated or commercial, would provide a consistent basis for testing and approving new technologies. This applies not only to new technologies, but also to the development of replacement equipment needed for older systems.
For years, the attitude has been to operate systems to failure, because by then there would have been a replacement system, process, or part. Then is now. In many cases the replacement system or process, or more frequently the needed parts to maintain the current capability, does not exist. Now it will cost more to consider, design, build, and operate the needed replacement facilities. Now it will cost even more to restore needed systems to prior standards, and even more to meet many of the current standards.
The higher costs are coming at a time when it is more difficult to acquire the necessary funds to perform everything that nuclear professionals are being requested to perform. On top of that, additional funds are required for infrastructure maintenance to keep plants operating into the future. None of these funds are stable into the long term. Companies are spending significant funds to replace operations due to aging infrastructure. They must also finance ongoing maintenance program upgrades, which in turn lead to more spent on maintenance. Additional costs are being incurred working off legacy and deferred maintenance and facilities upgrades to extend their lives. Many times, issues arise due to the cost associated with upgrades and replacements.