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Technological Opportunities to Increase the Proliferation Resistance of Global Civilian Nuclear Power Systems (TOPS)

In 1999 the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) formed a special task force, called the TOPS Task Force, from the Nuclear Energy Research Advisory Committee (NERAC) to identify near- and long-term technical opportunities to further increase the proliferation resistance of global civilian nuclear power systems. Recommendations on specific areas of research were called for, as well as on areas where international collaboration could be most productive. This report is the response to this ambitious charge and is essentially a work in progress, suggesting directions of effort for the cognizant organizations.

The membership of the TOPS Task Force was chosen to represent a broad spectrum of backgrounds and viewpoints. Since the subject has broad international implications, knowledgeable representatives from overseas were included. Beyond this, major efforts were undertaken to factor in the views of various research groups, industry, and technical organizations through the sponsorship of workshops and meetings with interested individuals and organizations. The task force operated on a consensus basis: While there were differences of opinion on the merits and relative promise of some of the opportunities for development of advanced reactor and fuel cycle systems, all members fully support the basic recommendations.

The report covers four major topics: (a) the overall context in which nuclear power is being pursued at the present time, (b) the need and challenge to develop more systematic comparative nonproliferation assessments of different nuclear systems and their potential applications, (c) the technological opportunities meriting exploration that have the potential to increase the proliferation resistance of future civilian nuclear power systems, and (d) the principal research and development (R&D) objectives that the U.S., working in a spirit of collaboration with other countries, should pursue to enhance the global nonproliferation regime.