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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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By luceri on 4/28/2009 9:50:47 AM , Rating: 2
Thanks a lot Jimmy. You've instilled FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) that still exists today in the minds of Americans when it comes to nuclear power. Thanks a lot for putting our Nuclear Engineers out of work to the point their skill was so useless they couldn't get a job (don't tell me this didn't happen, my father was one of them).

And now, China is doing what we were doing 25 years ago. And oh, what's this? They're getting ahead of us? Well we're just brilliant for shutting down and preventing nuclear expansion in the states. Let's keep fighting wars for oil and putting billions into military research so that we can muscle our way to monetary influence, which would all be pointless if we had just continued what we had started and made it safer instead of whined and shut it down completely. Put the plants underground for all I care. 25 years of lost technology in the field because Americans have been tricked by the fear and uncertainty of nuclear plants. Almost no one really knows why other than "Oh look chernobyl was bad I don't want that happening".

The pros SO outweigh the cons it's absolutely ridiculous. All your electric bills, all your gas bills. If we hadn't shut down programs 25 years ago that China's starting up now, all those bills you guys are paying would be cut by probably 75% right now. Instead of paying 400$ a month for gas, you'd likely be paying 100. Technology probably would have advanced to smaller nuclear fuel cells by now capable of powering vehicles safely and without risk. The American auto industry could be leading this RIGHT NOW, with 100% electric vehicles capable of running for hundreds of miles, not just the 60ish the current ones we have are capable of. This may not have saved the US auto industry, but damn it could have helped it...

Environmentalists whine about nuclear power yet nuclear power plants are infinitely less destructive on the Earth vs burning the equivalent amount of energy in coal or oil. I've given up trying to reason with these hardcore environmentalists, they won't stop until we're riding bikes from California to New York (Not saying all environmentalists are like this, I care a lot about the environment myself, but the extremists will ruin it for everyone).

I just want to see America prosper the way we used to back in the 60's-90's. I want my kids to not have to endure hardships. It's been proven that if we can get the middle east to prosper, their issues with wars and conflicts will almost halt to a stop. I'm not saying give them nuclear energy, but give them the power of it to use so that they can get on their feet and prosper, then 65 years from now when there's no hate from conflicts and violence filling their eyes, there won't be nearly as many issues in the region and they can be true allies (hopefully.. history says otherwise but I hope it can and will happen).

Eh this is turning into a rant and I'm starting to get idealistic. Will shut up now.

"Game reviewers fought each other to write the most glowing coverage possible for the powerhouse Sony, MS systems. Reviewers flipped coins to see who would review the Nintendo Wii. The losers got stuck with the job." -- Andy Marken

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