Recent media articles about nuclear power renaissance are encouraging, but this controversial topic is far from being embraced by major industrial powers. The fact is, that within the next two to three decades or so most of the first generation US nuclear power plants, currently producing about 20 percent of the nation’s electrical power, will be near the end of their design lives. In addition to providing needed power, a major argument put forward for the introduction of next generation smaller and safer nuclear plants relates to the growing concern about greenhouse gas emission and global warming. However, overcoming public and institutional resistance to nuclear power remains a formidable endeavor, and in reality the introduction of new plants in sufficient numbers to significantly impact the market will not be realized for several decades. Clearly vision is needed to define the requirements for new nuclear plants that will meet the needs of consumers by say the middle of the 21st century. Market forces will mandate changes in the energy supply sector, and to be in concert with environmental concerns new nuclear plants must have operational flexibility. In addition to economical electrical power, energy needs in the future could include hydrogen production in slgnificant quantity (for fuel cells in the transportation and power sectors) and fresh water by desalination for urban, industrial and agricultural users. The High Temperature Reactor (HTR) has the capability to meet these projected needs. With an established technology base, and successful plant operation in Germany, the helium cooled pebble bed reactor (PBR) must be regarded as a leading second generation nuclear plant. Operational versatility by virtue of its high temperature capability is assured, and high availability can be realized with its on-line refueling approach. While the multipurpose HTR may be several decades away from playing a significant rote in the commercial market place, this paper emphasizes the need for technical planning today to establish a nuclear heat source adaptable to both a high efficiency helium timed cycle gas turbine and large scale hydrogen production facilities, thus extending the role of nuclear power beyond just the supply of electrical power.

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