“Nuclear power is in better shape than ever”
Gonzalo Jiménez has a degree in physics from the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM), a Masters’ Degree in Electric Generation (University of Zaragoza) and a Master’s Degree and Doctorate in Nuclear Science and Technology from the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM). He has led over 20 research projects for important companies in the Spanish nuclear sector and coordinates the European AMHYCO Project. He is currently a professor of Nuclear Technology at the UPM’s Technical School of Industrial Engineers.
Education and nuclear research are two of his great passions; he is convinced that “nuclear power, which is capable of producing a lot of energy from very little mater, is in better shape than ever“.
“Nuclear power is capable of producing a lot of energy from very little matter"
During the cycle “Aprende ConCiencia” that we organize at Foro Nuclear, Gonzalo Jiménez led the video presentation “¿Cómo serán los reactores del futuro?”. (What will future reactors be like?). He spoke about the most recent reactors, including those that are still to come in a near future: from small modular reactors (SMRs) to high-temperature reactors with industrial co-generation applications (see the monograph on advanced nuclear reactors).
During his participation, the professor also reviewed the global situation of nuclear power and the reactor construction projects currently underway. In his opinion, “nuclear power is in better shape than ever.” He argued this statement based on recent data from the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA): “The world has 443 operating nuclear reactors and another 50 under construction, as well as many more in the commissioning and planning stages,” he assured.
“IAEA data reflects that the world has 443 operating nuclear reactors and another 50 under construction, as well as many more in the commissioning and planning stages"
During his participation, Gonzalo Jiménez explained that “most of the reactors currently in operation are Generation II. Generation III/III+ reactors are the ones currenly under construction and the latest to start operation. Generation IV are the reactors that are to come. SMRs are in a very advanced stage of development in many cases.”
The Nuclear Technology professor and researcher summarized how future reactors will be: “They will have passive safety systems and advanced fuel cycles, their construction will be modular and they will take up less space. They will also have scalable power and other applications that will benefit society, industry or the environment.”
After his presentation we delved into a few questions:
Could you give us more details of these applications of Generation IV? N
The so-called “high-temperature reactors” allow industrial applications that Generation II and III/III+ do not, since they have lower operation temperatures. According to a report from the United States Department of Energy, some of these applications could be:
- Production of synthetic diesel
- Synthesizing ammonia with natural gas
- Hydrogen production by reforming methane or by hydrolysis
- Desalinization of sea water
- Carbon gasification and metal manufacturing
“One of the applications of Generation IV is the desalinization of sea water"
What type of students attend your classes?
At the UPM Industrial Engineering School we educate on nuclear issues for various under and postgraduate degrees, and thus we have students from both stages. Undergraduate degrees include Industrial Technologies and Energy Engineering. We offer 100% nuclear Masters’ degrees: Nuclear Science and Technology and Energy Engineering. We also give nuclear training to the students of the Masters’ Degree in Industrial Engineering, as well as simulation training to the students of the Masters’ Degree in Numeric Simulation in Ingeneering, with the support of the company Ansys.
What future awaits to those who want to work in the nuclear field?
At the international level the nuclear sector is going through a very good period, with a great deal of reactors in construction all over the world. Thus, the students wishing to work in the nuclear field should have no problems finding interesting opportunities. Regarding jobs in the Spanish nuclear sector, it is true that there are plans for new construction. However, on one hand a generational renewal is taking place because of the high number of retirements and on the other hand this is a sector that has been internationalized almost since the start.
“The nuclear sector is going through a very good period, with a great deal of reactors in construction all over the world"
What do you teach your students in your Nuclear Power Plants class?
In Nuclear Power Plants we teach the physical and technological fundamentals of Generation II light water reactors, with a brief introduction to nuclear safety. Students also have to do an assignment on Generation III/III+ and IV, as well as a simulation practice that is usually done in Tecnatom. The subject of Nuclear Power Plants, along with Nuclear Technology and Nuclear Safety, constitute the knowledge basis needed to understand nuclear technology, which makes it possible to advance further in this knowledge moving forward, in specialized Masters’ Degrees in Nuclear Engineering.
What do you think is necessary to make society gain a better understanding of nuclear power?
I believe information is the key to keep perception from being influenced by false myths regarding nuclear power. In this sense, I would like to highlight the enormous effort being made by Foro Nuclear, Operador Nuclear, the Spanish Nuclear Young Generation, Women in Nuclear, the European Nuclear Education Network and the Spanish Nuclear Society by posting on different social networks and organizing multiple online seminars.
“I believe information is the key to keep perception from being influenced by false myths regarding nuclear power"
You have worked in research projects for the Spanish nuclear sectdor. How would you define this industry?
The Spanish nuclear sector remains largely unknown to the public at large, and this is a pity because we should be proud of it. As a country, our capacities are superior to other countries, and this is made evident by the international projection of many of our companies and institutions as well as the international initiatives in which we participate at all levels. The great challenge we face is the long term, where new advanced nuclear reactor construction projects will be necessary to ensure the good health of the Spanish nuclear sector.
“Nuclear power should play an active and visible role in energy transition strategies"
What would you like to add?
Nuclear power should play an active and visible role in energy transition strategies. The development of nuclear power has costed many years of investment in science and technology—including the participation of some of the most brillian minds in history—and political sways should not ruin something that has costed so much effort.