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Visegrad Initiative for Nuclear Cooperation

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - VINCO (Visegrad Initiative for Nuclear Cooperation)

Reporting period: 2017-03-01 to 2018-08-31

VINCO addresses important societal problem: energy for future and contributes to its solving by building a research platform able to cope with the gas-cooled nuclear reactors technology in V4 countries. Project is focused on ALLEGRO Gas-cooled Fast Reactor (GFR), during its realization activities related to High Temperature gas-cooled Reactor (HTR) were included. Both concepts use helium as heat carrier, so their connection is natural. Development of nuclear technology is far too costly for medium sized countries. It is thus necessary to create a multinational structure sharing the work and the costs. This is the concept lying behind the Visegrad 4 for Generation 4 (V4G4) Centre of Excellence and proposition to submit a C&S VINCO project to European Commission.
The importance of gas-cooled reactors relies in two factors. First: GFRs are breeding reactors, therefore allow one to increase amount of available energy by using 238U. Secondly: HTRs are the only nuclear technology able to produce steam at 550C, needed for chemical industry. Replacement of gas-powered boilers by HTRs would lead to a reduction of 25% in the amount of gas consumed, reducing the dependency on external sources and limiting CO2 emission. Both technologies are thus important from national, regional and European points of view. The main objectives of the project are: (i) to structure the research carried out in V4 countries on gas-cooled nuclear reactors, (ii) to establish links between partners, (iii) to increase synergy and complementarity in partner institutions by focusing the research on different topics and (iv) to serve as a working tool for V4G4 CoE Association. Apart of those topics the actions promoting nuclear technologies, education and training activities have been carried out.
Project working procedures have been established. Project bodies were identified and financial procedures set. Webpage has been designed and installed. Situation in partner labs was described and financial opportunities identified. Collaborating strategy in V4 countries has been discussed and prepared. Visits in partners labs allowed to establish links between teams. Current and future financing possibilities have been analysed and reviewed pointing to the limited number of financing programs allowing for use in regional scale. Most of financial streams are focused on national projects or EU programs. Few programs support bilateral cooperation. There is a clear lack of projects adapted to regional cooperation. A possible solution could be ERA+ like projects available for more than two partners. Thermohydraulic and neutronic analyses have been carried out allowing for the comparison of the methods used. Rules of the collaboration were tested via benchmark exercises. A one-day school has been organized presenting current state of research on gas-cooled reactors to students and young researchers.
Main objectives of the VINCO project foreseen in DoA have been achieved, namely:
(i) Research procedures on nuclear technologies in V4 countries have been compared leading to better understanding, more precise definition of specializations and efficient structure of current and future research activities. Principles of cooperation and rules of access to existing and planned infrastructure have been developed and used;
(ii) Benchmarking exercises carried out allowed for the unification of simulation procedures in participant laboratories;
(iii) Joint visits, workshops, benchmarking exercises lead to strengthening the links between partners. Objectives of the R&D activities in cooperating countries were identified, resources and research infrastructures described, as well as educational and training capabilities. This has allowed further proposals, e.g. FOREvER (joint research) or DINAMIC (joint educational activities) projects. Investment priorities in V4 countries were identified;
(iv) Synergy and complementarity has been increased by focusing the research on defined topics, e.g. Hungary and Czech Republic work on new fuels, Poland on structural materials and is developing a material research centre NOMATEN;
(v) VINCO project led also to establish new joint projects and proposals, e.g. DINAMIC, FOREvER, GEMMA and M4F. New material-related projects will be proposed by NOMATEN CoE;
(vi) VINCO project supported V4G4 Association, during V4G4 meetings VINCO results were presented and discussed, our Web platform served V4G4 CoE.
Contacts with decision makers were established. These activities helped to prepare a governmental report on the perspectives of HTR technology. This report has been approved by the Polish Ministry of Energy and led to the GOSPOSTRATEG project which can be regarded as the follow-up action of VINCO. VINCO activities helped also to prepare NOMATEN Centre of Excellence (Teaming for Excellence program). NOMATEN objective is to establish a CoE focused on advanced materials, it will operate on the open access basis and has been conceived as a material node of the future distributed regional research Centre for Gen 4 reactors in V4 countries. Similar role will be played by helium loop in Czech Republic (SUSEN project, helium technology node), whereas the simulation activities will be coordinated by Slovakia and fuel studies by Hungary. Dissemination of information about the project was done using VINCO webpage and presented at various events. Brochure was prepared and distributed by project participants.
The project led to strengthening of nuclear cooperation in V4 region and supporting V4G4 CoE. It addressed the tasks of C&S Actions.
The major expected impact - setting up of a distributed research centre for Gen IV reactor technology in the region has been partially achieved. The NOMATEN CoE has been created and will cover a material aspects of Gen IV reactors. The CoE will have a distributed character and will involve foreign researchers. NOMATEN could be a management model and the starting point to build full scale distributed regional research center for Gen IV reactors. Several ALLEGRO specific actions were performed, with the participation of V4 countries and CEA. Common research axes between ALLEGRO and HTR projects were identified.
A long term impact of VINCO activities is difficult to estimate, however the project has several practical outcomes: (i) creation of a living research environment in V4 countries, (ii) spreading the information about nuclear technologies in partner countries, (iii) identifcation of advantages of GFR and HTR technology, (iv) various educational and popularization materials (brochure promoting Gen 4 technology, presentations, leaflets etc.) and (v) establishment of a network able to organize workshops, study visits, benchmark exercises and various events presenting nuclear technology.