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  Institute for Reactor Safety and Reactor Technology (Univ.-Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Hans-Josef Allelein)

1. Significance of Nuclear Engineering in the Future

The provision of a sufficient amount of cost-effective and ecologically friendly sources of energy is a key problem to mankind. At that moment, the energy demand is met to a great extent by fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and oil). Since the discovery of nuclear fission more than 50 years ago, its use has become increasingly significant for the supply of electrical and thermal energy, and the importance of regenerative energy carriers will still be rising in the future.

It is assumed that mankind's demand of primary energy will rise strongly during the next decades. Whereas today 5.8 billion people use up 13E9 tce, it is expected that in 2020 8 billion will consume 20E9 tce.

To provide this additional amount of energy, global efforts are required. Any available and economically exploitable source must and will be used. In view of the restricted availability of fossil fuels, mankind has three additional options at its disposal: solar energy, nuclear fission and fusion have to be taken into account as energy sources as well. Nuclear fusion still remains to be developed in a technical and physical way; in Germany and also in many other countries it will probably take several decades until solar energy can be economically realized to the desired extent.

Currently, a further development of nuclear energy faces with serious political problems as a result of low acceptance in the public of many countries, e.g. Germany. However, nuclear energy is expected to play an essential role in future energy supply scenarios. The Conference Of World Energy expects a doubling of energy produced by nuclear plants until 2005. Assuming that the effects of CO2 emissions on the atmosphere are as menacing as assessed by experts, the use of nuclear energy should be extended even further.

So obviously a massive expansion of nuclear energy will take place in the next decades. So achieve the necessary social acceptance of nuclear energy, its technical realization must not only exclude severe accidents that will vastly contaminate areas with radioactive material or evacuation necessities at all, but also protect population from any health hazard. Under the new German law concerning future nuclear installations, high security standards are strictly demanded. Technical solutions to achieve these standards are conceivable, the technical realization of such systems is worked out world-wide intensively. All in all, the development and introduction of nuclear energy without the risk of catastrophes is necessary and probably also practicable in the future.
World-wide, this is regarded as an essential future task.

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