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Climate Change Considerations in Sustainable Development of Nuclear Power Plants in the United States

[+] Author Affiliations
Ping K. Wan, Alice C. Carson, Desmond W. Chan

Bechtel Power Corporation, Frederick, MD

Paper No. ICONE18-29331, pp. 403-407; 5 pages
  • 18th International Conference on Nuclear Engineering
  • 18th International Conference on Nuclear Engineering: Volume 6
  • Xi’an, China, May 17–21, 2010
  • Conference Sponsors: Nuclear Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4934-7
  • Copyright © 2010 by ASME


Nuclear power generation has become an increasingly attractive alternative in the global power market due to growing demand for electric power, increasing global competition for fossil fuels, concern over greenhouse gas emissions and their potential impact on climate change, and the desire for energy independence. Nuclear energy plays an integral role in providing carbon free energy for sustainable development of global electric power generation. Assuring the protection of people and the environmental is a prime consideration in the design, construction, and operation of nuclear power plants. Potential environmental and safety concerns must be carefully evaluated and addressed. In order to assure that the nuclear power plant designs are sufficiently robust, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) requires that applicants for early site permits (ESP) and construction/operating licenses (COL) identify the most severe natural phenomena historically reported for the site and surrounding area to ensure sufficient design margin exists, considering the limited accuracy, quantity, and time in which the associated data has been collected. Because these permits are valid for a period up to 40 years, the potential impacts of climate change on the severity of natural phenomena, as it relates to the design basis and nuclear safety and environmental impacts are of increasing interest. Although no conclusive evidence or consensus of opinion is available on the long-term climatic changes resulting from human or natural causes, the USNRC has requested that climate change forecasts be considered for their potential affecting the most severe natural phenomena. The specific subject areas of concern include: • Extreme temperature and extreme precipitation (liquid & frozen) statistics – review 100 years of data around the site versus a review of the previous 30 years of data. • Extreme wind/basic wind speed – review previous 100 years of tropical cyclone data (including hurricanes) in the site vicinity versus previous 30 years of data. • Tornado – review of frequency and intensity trends and forecasts. • Drought – review of water availability / water supply during drought conditions and drought of record. • Stagnation Potential – review of conditions that would result in restrictive dispersion of greenhouse gas emissions. This paper examines the challenges and constraints in identifying and developing appropriate design- and operating-basis site/regional meteorological conditions while accounting for potential climate change during preparation of an ESP and/or COL. Because there is no regulatory guidance or quantitative acceptance criteria currently available, the methodology used to address climate change in a recent issued ESP will be discussed as an example.

Copyright © 2010 by ASME



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