Yes, I had my AREVA conference call in the morning yesterday, and it turns out that AREVA is stepping up its efforts to start building more EPR (European Pressurized Reactor) and PWR (Pressurized Water Reactor) type reactors in the US. In addition, they are heavily pushing the VHTR (Very High Temperature Reactor) for the GenIV research path in the US in addition to the GCFR (Gas-Cooled Fast Reactor) in Europe, particularly France. Currently, AREVA has no plans to develop any thorium based reactors.
Although the VHTR would not be my first choice for the GenIV development path, it does have its advantages in the fact that it would utilize a much higher actinide burn up ratio in addition to being more efficient in terms of power output to fuel usage. Finally, one of the main reasons why AREVA is pursuing the VHTR is because of the high amount of heat that the reactor gives off during its operation that can be put to use for many industrial applications ranging from hydrogen production, petroleum distillation, and desalination. AREVA mentioned that one of the main challenges that they foresee is getting the design approved through the NRC, which is a notoriously fickle administration. The GCFR has been chosen for Europe because of the political viability of a closed nuclear fuel cycle which has traditionally met with some difficulty in the US. GCFR reactors can use many different fuel grades for energy including material that is left over from the operation of LWR (Light Water Reactor) and PWR reactors. The GCFR can be used as a breeder and it operates at a high enough temperature in that it can take advantage of the Brayton cycle.
It was a very productive and interesting meeting and I am glad that I was able to attend as I no longer have a class during Friday morning. I look forward to next month's topic and hope that this is going towards a greater role and acceptance of nuclear energy in our future. Once again, I thank AREVA for their time and efforts.