Analogical Innovation Between Biomass and Nuclear Fuels Cycles to Mitigate Climate Change

Hamdi M 1*,2

1 University Carthage, National Instttute Applied Sciences Technology, 1080 Tunis, Tunisia.

2 Former DG of National Centre of Nuclear Sciences and Technology. Technopark, 2020 Ariana, Tunisia.

*Corresponding Author:Hamdi M, University Carthage, National Instttute Applied Sciences Technology, 1080 Tunis, Tunisia, Tel: +216 71 703 829; Fax: +216 71 703 829; E-mail:

Citation: Hamdi M (2022) Analogical Innovation Between Biomass and Nuclear Fuels Cycles to Mitigate Climate Change. SciEnvironm 5: 159.

Received: October 26, 2022; Accepted: October 31, 2022; Published: November 03, 2022.

Copyright: © 2022 Hamdi M, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited


Global demand for primary energy will increase and only 18% of total energy demand was met by carbon-free sources of energy such as hydropower, renewable energies and nuclear energy. Commercialized nuclear power plants which continue in mitigation of climate change require innovation in term of performance, cost, safety and extension of the useful life to improve reductions of GHG emissions. Biorefinery concept is defined as the sustainable processing of biomass into a spectrum of marketable products and energy. By analogy to biorefinery concept, we suggest the new concept of nuclear refinery which is a facility that integrates nuclear fuels conversion processes and equipment to produce fuels, power, and by- or co-products. Lessons learned from bioethanol fuel and biorefinery concept allowed to identify some opportunities for sustainable innovation through uranium fuel cycle in order to contribute in mitigation of climate change by: maximizing the production of energy contained in the fuel and maximizing the use of produced energy; minimizing material loss (by- or co-products) and maximizing the reuse of wastes; integration of non-electric applications (cogeneration, desalination); the connection to renewable energy and wastes treatment; use nuclear energy in agro food development (water, processing).


Keywords: Greenhouse Gas, Climate Change, Biorefinery, Innovation, Nuclear Refinery


Urbanization has intensi?ed the industrial and the economic issues that have affected rural activities, natural resources, environment and biodiversity. The world’s population will be about 9.55 billion by the middle of this century [1], and nearly 1.3 billion people do not have access to electricity [2]. Moreover, by 2050, nearly half of the world’s population may reside in urban areas and thus good plant placement is vital to meet growing energy demand [3].

Global demand for primary energy will increase by 55% between 2005 and 2030. The contribution of coal in meeting total global energy demand was 29% that of oil was 31% and that of gas 21%. The remaining 18% of total energy demand was met by carbon-free sources of energy such as hydropower, renewable energies and nuclear energy (4). Energy use is responsible for about 70% of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions such as nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2). According to the World Resources Institute [5], global emissions of CO2 from fossil fuels have risen steeply since the start of the industrial revolution, with the largest increases from 5 billons tons in 1945 to 25 billons tons in 2000.

Changes in biodiversity are currently the fastest in the history of mankind. Moreover, we are facing a serious threat to global biodiversity associated with our growing human population [6]. In relation to 7 billion people, 12% of mammals, 12% of birds, 31% of reptiles, 30% of amphibians, and 37% of fish are threatened with extinction [7].

Some national and international initiatives are required to reestablish ecosystem services after the past century during which huge amounts of fossil fuels were burned and affected photosynthesis, which would naturally absorb carbon dioxide [8]. The latest report of the IPCC WG III concludes that mitigation scenarios consistent with the Copenhagen Accord (reaching GHG concentrations around 450 ppm CO2-eq by 2100). Low carbon energy technologies such as nuclear power will play a decisive role in reducing the carbon intensity of global energy supply and addressing the climate change challenge [9].

In order to have 66% chance of keeping the global average temperature below 2°C, the total remaining CO2 quota from 2014 is 903 Gt CO2. At current emission rates, this quota will be used up in around 20 years, according to the Global Carbon Project [10]. In addition to New Policies and 450 Scenarios, the IEA performed a summary assessment of the energy sector impacts of the intended nationally determined contributions to GHG emissions reduction communicated to UNFCCC8 in advance of the Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris in 2015 [11]. According to this assessment, if these contributions are fully implemented, the growth in energy sector GHG emissions will slow down drastically, resulting in an increase of around 2.7°C in average global temperature by 2100.

Expanding nuclear power, together with the increased use of hydro and other renewable energies as well as improved energy end-use efficiency, remains crucial for reducing CO2 emissions. Currently, the renewable energy produced from firewood, biofuels, geothermal, solar, hydropower and wind contribute less than 20% to global energy. However, available renewable energies are intermittent and they have a cost for grid connection with a factor of 3 to 10 higher than coal, gas or nuclear. Nuclear energy can be compared to renewable energy and it is not zero-carbon because of some emissions coming from fuel processing [12]. Moreover, the nuclear fuels are very concentrated, as opposed to wind, solar and biomass energy which require geographical space.

Sustainable development through worldwide requires secure, cleaner and cheaper energy to urban, agricultural and industrial activities. The deployment of low carbon technologies is still limited by the weak competitiveness with fossil energy because weak innovation to introduce new technologies, regulations, and reliable investment policies. Clean energy including Biofuels and nuclear fuels which are environmentally friendly and sources of a wide range of renewable materials should contribute much more to oversee the climate change challenge.

Impact of Energy Uses on The Climate Change

Hydrocarbons remain by far the primary source of energy. They represent 2/3 of global energy consumption and demand for oil should grow up by 37% by 2030 [13]. Demand for coal is expected to grow further by 2030, while its share is expected to represent 28% of the global energy consumption. The use of fossil fuels, capitalizing 75% of GHG emissions, has caused global recent upheavals in climate and fueled conversations on the warming caused by carbon dioxide (GIEC 2007) [14]. World electricity generation in 2012 amounted to 22 752 TWh, 2 461 TWh of which was produced by nuclear power and 20 291 TWh by other sources. Global CO2 emissions from the electricity sector were 13 346 million tCO2. The average footprint of the total fuel mix without nuclear energy would thus have amounted to 13 346 MtCO2 divided by 20 291 TWh, or 657 gCO2/kWh [15].

According the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development [16] issued by the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, there are three “pillars” (i) The economic pillar of sustainable development relates to the maintenance, accumulation and use of different categories of capital, (ii) The environmental pillar embraces the preservation of natural resources and biodiversity and the protection of habitats and ecosystems, (iii) The social pillar [17] are food, water, energy, shelter and health, education, leisure, culture, political activities, good governance, competent institutions and social relations .

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is defined as the compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs and the potential environmental impacts of a production system throughout its life cycle, from raw material acquisition to final disposal [18].

Table 1 shows that nuclear energy is in no way “carbon free” or “emissions free”, even though it is much better than coal, oil and natural gas electricity generators, but worse than renewable and small-scale distributed generators [19]. However, the electricity sector is still far from being low-carbon as it continues to be dominated by coal and gas. In 2013, the share of electricity produced from coal was 41% at the global level, 33% in OECD countries and 49% in non-OECD countries.

Gas produced 22% of global electricity, 26% in OECD countries and 19% in non-OECD countries [15]. Indeed, the technological development based on the high consumption of energy is mainly derived from the burning of carbon fuels causes the unbalance of the carbon cycle. The ecosystems have become less effective because of the production of water and CO2 are faster than their recycling in biomass [8]. In fact, the needs of the citizens in terms of ?oor space (ecosystem services) can reach 8 ha/person in developed countries.

The projected spatial pattern of temperature changes for RCP6.0 indicates that, in the near term (2016–2035), the increase in annual mean temperature is projected to be modest: 0.5 to 1.5°C in most regions. Over the long term (2081–2100), however, a rather different picture emerges: 2 to 6°C temperature increases are foreseen in most regions of the world [20, 21].

 Table 1: Lifecycle GHG emission estimated for electricity generators [19].



Estimate (g CO2/kWhe)


 2.5 MW offshore 



 3.1 MW reservoir



 1.5 MW onshore


Biogas (Biofuel)

Anaerobic digestion



300 kW run-of-river


Solar thermal

80 MW parabolic trough


Biomass (Biofuel)

Bioethanol, hydrogen


Solar PV

Polycrystaline silicon



80 MW hot dry rock



Various reactor types


Natural gas

Various combined cycle turbines


Fuel Cell

Hydrogen from gas reforming



various generator and turbine types


Heavy oil

various generator and turbine types



various generator types


The projected spatial pattern of temperature changes for RCP6.0 indicates that, in the near term (2016–2035), the increase in annual mean temperature is projected to be modest: 0.5 to 1.5°C in most regions. Over the long term (2081–2100), however, a rather different picture emerges: 2 to 6°C temperature increases are foreseen in most regions of the world [20, 21].

The scientific consensus that global annual GHG emissions will need to be reduced by at least 50% from today’s levels by 2050 if the world is to limit the average temperature increase to 2°C by the end of the century push many governments around the world to agree that actions for GHG emissions reduction must be undertaken over the coming decades.

Comparison of observed continental- and global-scale changes in surface temperature showed that (i) there are no correlations between regional contributions in term of GHG and global warming, (ii) and lands are more affected than oceans. Since the past century, rising of CO2 levels have led to global changes (ocean warming and acidification) with subsequent effects on marine ecosystems and organisms [22].

In addition to CO2 that have a global effect on greenhouse gases, power generation from fossil fuels also emits pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) of varying diameter, Sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Others include an array of heavy metals and radionuclides. Sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX), ground level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide (CO) and lead which are products of the incomplete combustion of fossil and biomass fuels, contribute also to smog [23]. Masanet et al. (2013) summarized the life cycle SO2 and NOX emissions from different power generation sources (Table 2).

Table 2: Life cycle emissions from different power generation sources (mg/kWh) [24].



Natural gas





Hard coal


Combined cycle

Steam turbine















Nuclear power is both a low-carbon source of baseload electricity and a technology associated with clean air. Such air-borne pollution is responsible for high mortality, which the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates at about 7 million deaths annually [24]. Storm van Leuween and Smith [25] looked at every single subcomponent of the fuel cycle, and produced estimates near the high end of the spectrum at 112 - 166 gCO2/kWh as mentioned in (Table 3).

Table 3:  Emissions for the nuclear fuel cycle, in gCO2/kWh [25].

Nuclear process

Estimate (gCO2/ kWh)

Frontend (total)


Uranium mining and milling (grade of 0.06%)


Re?ning of yellow cake and conversion to UF6


Uranium enrichment (70% UC, 30% diff)


Fuel fabrication


Construction (total)


Reactor operation and maintenance (total)


Backend (total)


Depleted uranium reconversion


Packaging depleted uranium


Packaging enrichment waste


Packaging operational waste


Packaging decommissioned waste


Sequestration of depleted uranium


Sequestration of enrichment waste


Sequestration of operational waste


Sequestration of enrichment waste


Interim storage at reactor


Spent fuel conditioning for ?nal disposal


Construction, storage, and closure of geologic repository


Decommissioning (total)


Decommissioning and dismantling


Land Reclamation of uranium mine (grade of 0.06%)




In the past 30 years, carbon emissions have been steadily rising due to the increased use of all three fossil fuels: coal, oil and gas and these now stand at 32 Gigatonnes (Gt). In 2013, coal contributed in 44% of global energy-related CO2 emissions, oil contributed in 35% and gas 20%. Nuclear power belongs to the set of energy sources and technologies available today that could help to meet the climate energy challenge. GHG emissions from nuclear power plants (NPPs) are negligible, and nuclear power, together with hydropower and wind-based electricity, is among the lowest CO2 emitters. Across a large number of stringent mitigation scenarios in compliance with the Copenhagen Accord, nuclear electricity is assessed as avoiding approximately 3.3 to 9 Gt CO2/year in 2050, depending on assumptions about the relative costs and performance of low carbon technologies [25, 26].

Climate change, used as a noun, became an issue rather than the technical description of changing weather [27]. Climate change, also called global warming, refers to the rise in average surface temperatures on Earth.

Climate change was incorporated in the title of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Possible impacts of climate change due to changes in extreme weather and climate events, based on major projected impacts on agriculture, forests, water resources, human health, industry, settlement and society to the mid to late 21st century [28]. The long-term impact of climate change on many key economic sectors such as energy, agriculture, fishing, water utilities, tourism industries is certain but there is disparity in economical vulnerability to climate change between developed and developing countries.

The Nuclear Energy Challenges and Initiatives to Mitigate Climate Change

The World Nuclear Association identifies three key challenges: (i) an economic challenge, (ii) a quality challenge and (iii) a capability challenge [29]. The same challenges are met in nuclear energy activities through nuclear fuel cycle. In fact, nuclear power plants do face challenges due to their large up-front capital costs, complex project management requirements and difficulties in siting, NPP operations and waste management.

Present nuclear capacity supplied 11% of global electricity production in 2013 and 18% of production in OECD countries. In its World Energy Outlook 2014 special report [30], the International Energy Agency estimates that in 2012, nuclear power worldwide avoided the emissions of 1.7 Gt of CO2 based on a regional analysis of what generation technology would fill the gap if nuclear power were not present, and that cumulatively since 1971, 56 Gt of CO2 have been avoided thanks to nuclear power.

There are some arguments against nuclear energy such as fuel radioactive emissions, low energetic efficiency (35%), nuclear waste, and the high cost.

Construction costs and safety concerns have made nuclear power much less attractive than initially expected. In the 1970's nuclear power cost half as much as electricity from coal burning: by 1990 nuclear power cost twice as much as electricity from coal burning [31]. In recent years, a number of governments have reassessed their approach to nuclear energy. They are considering it as an important part of their energy strategy. In the meanwhile, others continue to consider that nuclear energy should not be part of their energy supply mix. Indeed, nuclear energy sources are not competitive without government subsidies and in France nuclear power is far more expensive than electricity from efficient fossil fuel burning power plants [32].

The report about the Renewable Energies versus Nuclear Power [33] of five European countries (United Kingdom, Poland, Germany, France and the Czech Republic), under the same budgetary conditions, showed that five countries could generate more electricity from renewable sources than from nuclear power. A review and analysis of the challenges that nuclear power [34] can be considered sustainable to replace fossil fuel.

The government’s positions are agreed by radioactive emissions and nuclear accidents. Indeed, dramatic impacts are well documented regarging radioactive contamination from Chernobyl spread over 40% of Europe and territories in Asia, northern Africa, and North America [35]. The effects of accidental radioactive discharges to marine life and the bioaccumulation of Fukushima radionuclides in marine biota [36] and in forest ecosystems of different locations have been investigated [37].

Despite the accident Fukushima Daiichi NPP, nuclear energy will remain an important option for many countries in the coming decades, and climate change mitigation is one of the salient reasons [38]. Even taking the disadvantage of public opposition into account, its other advantages, such as reliability, economics and energy, can lead a government to use nuclear power in spite of low public acceptance. “Nuclear energy can help to improve energy security, reduce the impact of volatile fossil fuel prices, mitigate the effects of climate change and make economies more competitive”, as IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano has explained [39].

 Vainio et al (2016) [40] found that the associations between trust and perceived risk of nuclear power, climate change concern, and perception of nuclear power as a way to mitigate climate change varied by the type of information source. The nuclear energy contribution in the climate change mitigation will be different according changes projected by the IEA scenarios for the period 2011-2050 which are summarized in (Table 4) [26].

 Table 4: Energy and impacts projections (2011 – 2050) according Scenarios 2DS, 4DS and 6DS.


Energy and Impacts


2 DS

4 DS

6 DS

Fossil fuel use

 Decrease 34 %

Increase 29 %

Increase 62 %

Nuclear energy increase



25 %

Renewable energy increase




Non fossil fuel contribution


30 %

22 %

CO2 emissions

Decrease to 15 Gt CO2

Increase to 41 Gt CO2

Increase to 55 Gt CO2

National and international initiatives made commitments to reduce the collective GHG emissions, especially the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In order to generate the efficiency gains expected from the carbon market, the carbon pricing mechanism needs to be aligned with other existing national regulations [41]. SMRs could be used to replace retiring coal plants because of their similarity in size in the range of 50–300 MW. In the USA, 60 GW of capacity are estimated to be retired by 2020, according to the IEA reference case from the Annual Energy Outlook report [42].

Several national and international initiatives have recently been launched in response to growing energy demands and the global imperative raised at COP21 to address climate change (Table 5).

Table 5: Examples of national and international initiatives in response to growing nuclear energy to mitigate climate change.




China intends to generate up to 10% of its power from nuclear energy (110 nuclear reactors) as part of a pledge to the international community to reduce carbon emissions and to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20% by 2030 [43].


The United States of America launched the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear programme in 2016 in response to the Paris Agreement to enhance the deployment of innovative nuclear technology to the market. It will provide the nuclear energy community with access to the technical, regulatory and financial infrastructures necessary to move new or advanced nuclear reactor designs towards commercialization while ensuring the continued safe, reliable, and economic operation of the existing nuclear fleet [44].


The UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory established the Nuclear Innovation and Research Office to provide advice to Government, industry and other bodies on R&D and innovation opportunities in the nuclear sector. According to reports, the “UK would double funding for the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s energy innovation programme to £500 million over five years, which will help pay for an ambitious nuclear research programme that will revive the country’s nuclear expertise and help turn it into a leader in SMR technology” [45].


The European Union Horizon 2020 advances nuclear research and training activities through the European Atomic Energy Community’s (EURATOM) work programme. The emphasis is on continually improving nuclear safety, security and radiation protection, to contribute to the long term decarbonization of the energy system in a safe, efficient and secure way. The focus is on nuclear fission, including the safety and feasibility of innovative reactors and closed fuel cycle options, radiation protection and nuclear fusion [46].


The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency launched Nuclear Innovation 2050 to define which technologies are necessary to achieve the nuclear growth needed for the Paris Agreement, and what RD&D is needed versus what is actually being done. A roadmap of RD&D until 2100 will be developed to address the gaps and timelines for five categories: reactors, fuel/fuel cycle, waste/decommissioning, emerging energy systems and cross-cutting issues [47].

COP 21

COP 21 offers the opportunity to include nuclear energy firmly in future flexibility mechanisms such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), or a potential successor in the post-2020 period, thus enabling nuclear’s full potential to reduce climate change inducing greenhouse gas emissions [48].


Role of Nuclear Power in Climate Change Mitigation Through Sustainable Innovation

The nuclear power which is an important technology option in climate change mitigation strategies must be strengthened by innovation to maintain an acceptable level of performance and enable a maximum return on investment while maintaining or increasing safety. Commercialized nuclear power plants which continue in mitigation of climate change require innovation in term of performance, cost, safety and extension of the useful life to improve reductions of GHG emissions.

The experience made over more than 50 years in NPP in terms of safety, fuel performance and efficiency should help innovation to expand rapidly enough to make a full contribution to combating climate change. The innovation in nuclear energy to mitigate climate change must oversee the political, social, financial and technological barriers. The mission innovation enjoins 20 countries and the European Union to double current annual public R&D funding in clean energy to $30 billion by 2020. Global Apollo, meanwhile, proposed investing $15 billion a year for ten years, and it calls on developed countries to plough 0.02% of their gross domestic product (GDP) into public R&D to make electricity from renewable sources cheaper than that from coal by 2025 [49].

There are differences between routine, noncreative performance and two distinct types of creativity: radical and incremental [50]. There are numerous opportunities for incremental innovation to optimize the use of WCRs considering climate change challenges through modularization factory and construction time reduction.

 Some opportunities for innovation in the nuclear industry could be able to deliver on its contribution to combating climate change and reducing global GHG emissions. The innovation should overcome some challenge of nuclear energy such as (i) the cost, (ii) the construction time, (iii) and the public acceptance linked to climate change mitigation. The process innovation has a number of steps and at each step of the process innovation, there are activities requiring inputs of knowledge, embodied in skilled persons and specialized equipment, as well as time investment in using these resources [51].

Through the analysis of their progress and advantages of nuclear fuel cycle by using all steps of process innovation for, renewable and nuclear energy technologies could be improved and interconnected to non-electric applications and reuse of wastes for mitigating the climate change.

The reasoning by analogy involves the identification and transfer of structural information from a known system (the source) to a new and relatively unknown system [52]. There is a clear analogy between the evolution of compartmentation of living organisms and fragmentation of ecosystems [53]. This compartmentation and the isolation of specialized activities are the key of the technology integration in ecosystems [8] and to establish the sustainability (Table 6).

 Table 6: Integration of technology in the nature [8].








Integrated bioprocess




Sustainable productivity








Compartment evolution


Cooperative and conservative

Competitive and innovative

Sustainable innovation




Green energy and clean energy sources




Coupling production and recycling

Ecosystem stability is mainly ensured by natural continuous dynamic change matter, energy and species evolution. In contrast, ecosystems use sustainable energy from sun that leads to bioethanol and biorefinery concept (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Stages of bioethanol production and biorefinery concept.

Biorefinery is defined as the sustainable processing of biomass into a spectrum of marketable products and energy [54]. The nuclear fuel cycle, which is an industrial process involving various steps to produce electricity from uranium in nuclear power reactors. If spent fuel is not reprocessed, the fuel cycle is referred to as an ‘open’. If spent fuel is reprocessed, and partly reused, it is referred to as a ‘closed’ nuclear fuel cycle. Without recycling of radioactive waste, the most commonly suggested solution is to build underground waste repositories for long-term storage. In fact, the production of 1,000 tons of uranium fuel typically generates 100,000 tons of tailings and 3.5 million liters of liquid waste [55]. Indeed, with closed nuclear fuel cycle, as shown in (Table 7) there is a clear analogy between the nuclear energy and biofuel energy.

Table 7: Analogy between production and use of biethanol and uranium fuel.




- Raw material supply

- Fuel pretreatment




-  Use of the fuel

- Storage and recycling

- Biomass harvesting

- Extraction of substrate

- Hydrolysis

- Fermentation (bioreactor)

- Downstream

- Burning of biofuel

- CO2 fixation by photosynthesis

- Uranium recovery

- Concentration

- Enrichment

- Fuel fabrication


- Use of fuel in nuclear reactor

- Reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel

By analogy to biorefinery, we suggest the new concept of nuclear refinery (nucleaRefinery) which is a facility that integrates nuclear fuels conversion processes and equipment to produce fuels, power, and by- or co-products (Figure 2). Lessons learned from biorefinery concept allowed to identify some opportunities for sustainable innovation through nuclear fuel cycle in order to contribute in mitigation of climate change by:

-               Maximizing the production of energy contained in the fuel and maximizing the use of produced energy;

-               Minimizing material loss (by- or co-products) and maximizing the reuse of wastes;

-               Integration of non-electric applications (cogeneration, desalination…);

-               The connection to renewable energy and wastes treatment

-               Use nuclear energy in agro food development (water, processing…).


Figure 2: The sustainable nuclear fuel cycle: new concept of nucleaRefinery.

The new concept of nucleaRefinery should improve the sustainability of nuclear power plant and increase its contribution in the mitigation of climate change.  Lessons learned from biorefinery concept allow the identification of some opportunities for innovation through nuclear fuel cycle (Table 8) to oversee challenges as mentioned above [34].

Table 8: Examples of opportunities for innovation in Uranium fuel cycle through nuclearefinery approach to mitigate climate change.

Fuel production


- Uranium recovery: to produce a uranium ore concentrate or Yellowcake




Sustainable practices of exploration and recovery technology, chysico-chemical process integration, potential of by- or co-products recovery, tailing management and mines rehabilitation, control of radiological impact on the environment, wastewaters treatment and recycling, uranium recovery from phosphate processing plants, …


-Concentration of uranium ore concentrate into uranium hexafluoride (UF6) and enrichment technology



Fuel and processing costs reduction, concentration process optimization, Improvements in uranium enrichment technologies, shifting from electricity intensive gaseous diffusion to centrifuge or laser technologies that require much less electricity, uses of depleted uranium (byproduct from enrichment), …



- Conversion and fuel fabrication to convert natural and enriched UF6 into UO2

Use of low carbon technologies for enrichment Improvements in fuel manufacturing, allowing higher burnup that reduces emissions per unit of electricity in the fuel supply part of LCA…

-Nuclear reactors and non-electric applications




Optimization of plant size and performance, levelized cost of energy, extended NPP lifetime from 40 to 60 years, non-electric applications and regulation innovation, spreading emissions associated with construction and decommissioning over a longer period, SMR, SMART, KLT-40 Floating Plant, and breeder reactor fuel cycle…

- Reprocessing of spent fuel


New separations approach that can be applied to closing the nuclear fuel cycle, hydrophilic class of ligands, room temperature ionic liquid potentials, son processing, supercritical fluid carbon dioxide, minor actinides recycling, …

- Interim storage of spent fuel and final disposition of used fuel or high-level waste

Radioactive waste control, spent nuclear fuel as potential energy resource, shielding optimization, cooling pools, safety analysis of geological disposal…

The closed fuel cycle improves sustainability in terms of supply certainty of uranium and involves less long-term radiological risks and proliferation concerns. Indeed, less than 1% of the heat generated in nuclear reactors is used for non-electric applications. The non-electric applications increase the contribution of nuclear power plants in the climate change mitigation through the water-cooling reactor (PWR: 280-320 °C, BWR: 280-290 °C) which are capable of providing heat with a wide range of temperatures [56]. About 99% of the industrial users need a thermal power less than 300 MW i.e., SMRs. The SMR technology also aims to reduce costs through modularization and factory construction thus reducing construction times. The SMRs are better suited for deployment in remote areas and may additionally support non-electrical applications such as sea water desalination, district heating and heat for low temperature processes such as biomass drying [57]. Future revolutionary (Generation IV) reactors can expand nuclear energy over the longer term (2030+). New fuel designs are needed to support future operating conditions (e.g., load-following), longer fuel cycles and higher burnups [58].

Innovations are needed in the separation and recycling of nuclear materials to fuel future Generation IV fast reactors [59]. Fourth-generation nuclear power technologies, which are able resolve the radioactive waste problem, still need substantial research and development [60]. Indeed, breeder reactors could, in principle, extract almost all of the energy contained in uranium or thorium, decreasing fuel requirements by a factor of 100 compared to widely used once-through light water reactors, which extract less than 1% of the energy in the uranium mined from the earth [61]. In this decade, IAEA focus much more on the role of the nuclear power in the mitigation of climate change through organization of meetings, workshops and publications in this field.


Analogy thinking and innovation are needed to improve sustainability through the whole nuclear fuel cycle steps and during all phases of the life cycle.

The proposed concept of nuclearefinery by analogy to biorefinery should improve the competitiveness of nuclear power plant and increase its contribution in the mitigation of climate change.The strengthening of the open innovation through member states should develop new concepts in innovative water cooled reactor (WCR) designs for energy production, integration with renewable energy sources, and non-electric applications.


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