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A rendering of the AP1000 reactor by Westinghouse  (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Prospective workers train in China to become operators at the world's first AP1000 reactor, an advanced Generation III+ reactor design by Westinghouse. The U.S. has several applications for the new reactor type pending, but with construction already started on the Chinese plant, China will almost certainly beat the U.S. to become the first to build the new reactor.  (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
While adoption in the U.S. still languishes, China's nuclear power is flourishing

One of the biggest controversies in the environmental community is the topic of nuclear power.  Some see it as the best short-term hope for clean, affordable alternative energy.  Others are fearful of the waste that is associated with older reactor designs.  Despite modern reactor designs recycling much of the spent fuel and being built with safer designs, these fears remain. 

The net result is that despite a couple pending applications, the U.S. is stuck with aging nuclear reactions, which indeed play to critics worst fears -- lacking much of the safety and waste recycling of modern designs.

Elsewhere, though, times are kind to the nuclear industry.  China, in particular is looking to join France and Japan in providing a large portion of its power from nuclear energy.  The nation, which currently relies heavily on coal power, is including nuclear development in a diverse program which also includes massive solar and wind power growth.

Concrete was just poured at the site of a new reactor in Sanmen, China, built by the Westinghouse Electric Company, The Shaw Group Inc., China's State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation, and the Sanmen Nuclear Power Company of China National Nuclear Corporation.  The reactor will be the first of four 1,100 MWe reactors built.

The new reactor, the Westinghouse AP1000, is an extremely advanced design which focuses on modularity and automation, as well as safety and optimum fuel use.  It is classed as a Generation III+ reactor and is the only such reactor to receive Design Certification from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

In total, the four reactor project will cost the nation approximately $8B USD.  However, it will put them in a position of nuclear leadership, with no other nation currently employing this reactor design, the latest from Westinghouse.  Westinghouse President and CEO Aris Candris states, "Completion of concrete pour is a major milestone that visibly moves the Sanmen project from the design and discussion stage to the construction stage.  More importantly, by getting this project underway on schedule, we are further helping to ensure that baseload electricity generation will begin at this plant as intended in 2013."

Some Chinese feel less than comfortable about the new reactor, though, stating that their country's people are being used as test rats for unproven designs (source in Chinese).  Regardless, construction appears geared to continue as planned.

The U.S., despite strong opposition, in coming years may roll out an even more advanced reactor design, with Georgia Power Company reaching an agreement late last year to construct two Revision 16 reactors in Vogtle, Georgia.  There are, in total, twelve such pending Combined Construction and Operating Licenses (COLs) filed for, though the go ahead from government regulators still remains.  The proposed plans may have to survive heavy legal pressure from anti-nuclear groups if they hope to advance.  Thus the status of the U.S.'s nuclear future remains significantly more questionable of that of China.

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RE: U.S. Still Stuck
By AmazighQ on 4/20/2009 4:22:07 PM , Rating: 1
nothing smarter
like for example mobile phones and networks where invented(developed)in US
but they rolled out in the rest of the world first
and the electrical grind first in the US
but first fully utilized in the rest of the world

China need power a lot of electricity production (1.3~1.4 billion people)
US already had sufficient electricity production
in China they have to in US its if they want to

RE: U.S. Still Stuck
By Bateluer on 4/20/2009 5:47:24 PM , Rating: 2
The US does not have sufficient electrical production right now, and demand continues to increase. Some areas already suffer brownouts and rolling black outs during peak months because they cannot handle the load. California, for example.

For the present, nuclear power is the only method of power generation capable of providing the gigawatts of electricity we need, at a environmental impact that is nearly negligible.

RE: U.S. Still Stuck
By Doormat on 4/20/2009 9:44:41 PM , Rating: 2
When was the last time California had a brownout?

If there is enough room in the energy grid to convert 73% of cars and light trucks on the road to PHEVs, there is plenty of room in the grid.

RE: U.S. Still Stuck
By kyleb2112 on 4/21/2009 3:35:14 AM , Rating: 2
There is "plenty of room in the grid" at night --which is when everyone's assuming those cars will be charged. Peak hours are still white knuckle ordeal every summer here. Whole industries are forced to awkwardly schedule AROUND the power restrictions--forced to Flex Your Power! as SDG&E so cutely puts it.

This is what you get when anti-capitalistic Luddites run your state.

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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