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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: Its time for us to move on...
By spwrozek on 4/21/2009 8:26:36 AM , Rating: 5
Or we just build new coal plants and phase out old ones/keep them as peakers. We have an abundance of coal and we should damn well use it.

In Michigan our Governor will not give Consumers a freaking permit to build a new 800 MW coal plant (she put a freeze on all permits). Which will be very efficient and would allow them to phase out about 400 MW of plants that were built in the 50's and have high emissions.

We also need to go with nuclear power though. It is the best clean alternative. Now, though we have the coal so we should use it.


RE: Its time for us to move on...
By MrBungle123 on 4/21/2009 10:42:31 AM , Rating: 4
How about this:

1. We build modern nuclear power plants.

2. Get rid of that stupid ban on reprocessing nuclear waste back into new fuel rods instated by Carter.

3. Begin implementing Coal to Liquids technology to reduce dependence on foreign oil.


RE: Its time for us to move on...
By Starcub on 4/22/2009 6:56:29 PM , Rating: 2
Liquified coal is even worse than coal in terms of environmental impact and cost: http://fora.tv/2007/09/13/Steve_Chu_A_New_Energy_P...


RE: Its time for us to move on...
By Starcub on 4/22/2009 6:10:17 PM , Rating: 2
Coal is even worse than nuclear in terms of environmental impact. Emmissions from coal plants are also radioactive. Carbon sequestration is need. The problem is that nobody wants to do it because it's too expensive.


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