As the demand for emission-free energy increases, the continued improvement of Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) and their thermal efficiencies is crucial to fulfilling that demand. Current NPPs, especially, with water-cooled reactors, have significantly lower thermal efficiencies (32–36%) compared to those of modern advanced thermal power plants (55–62%). Even Generation-III+ water-cooled NPPs will have thermal efficiencies not higher than 37–38%. Therefore, to be competitive on the energy market, new nuclear reactors and NPPs, so-called, Generation-IV concepts, should be designed and commissioned.
The paper discusses the vital role that thermal efficiency plays with respect to how far nuclear reactors can be more cost efficient and competitive. An evaluation of thermal efficiencies has been carried out for SuperCritical Water (SCW) NPPs with Rankine “steam”-turbine power cycle using the IAEA DEsalination Thermodynamic Optimization Program (DE-TOP). Various options for improving thermal efficiencies of SCW NPPs have been studied. This study was performed in support of possible designs of the first experimental SCW reactors.