In December 2005, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved the final design certification for the AP1000. This meant that prospective US builders could apply for a Combined Construction and Operating License before construction starts, whose validity is conditional upon the plant being built as designed, and that each AP1000 should be identical. Its design is the first Generation III+ reactor to receive final design approval from the U.S. NRC .
In 2008 China started building 4 units to the AP1000-2005 design.
In 2010, the NRC questioned the durability of the AP1000 reactor's original shield building in the face of severe external events such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and airplane collisions. In response to these concerns Westinghouse prepared a modified design. A US consultant engineer has also criticized the AP1000 containment design arguing that, in the case of a design-basis accident, it could release radiation; Westinghouse has denied the claim. The NRC completed the overall design certification review for the amended AP1000 in September 2011. In December 2011, the NRC approved construction of the first US plant to use the design. On February 9, 2012 the NRC approved the construction of two new reactors 
Design specifications 
The AP1000 is a two-loop pressurized water reactor planned to produce a net power output of 1117 MWe. It is an evolutionary improvement on the AP600, essentially a more powerful model with roughly the same footprint.
The design is less expensive to build than other Generation III designs partly because it uses existing technology. The design also decreases the number of components, including pipes, wires, and valves. Standardization and type-licensing should also help reduce the time and cost of construction. Because of its simplified design compared to a Westinghouse generation II PWR, the AP1000 has:
- 50% fewer safety-related valves
- 35% fewer pumps
- 80% less safety related piping
- 85% less control cable
- 45% less seismic building volume
Probabilistic risk assessment was used in the design of the plants. This enabled minimization of risks, and calculation of the overall safety of the plant. According to the NRC, the plants will be orders of magnitude safer than those in the last study, NUREG-1150. The AP1000 has a maximum core damage frequency of 5.09 × 10−7 per plant per year.
Used fuel produced by the AP1000 can be stored indefinitely in water on the plant site. Aged used fuel may also be stored in above-ground dry cask storage, in the same manner as the currently operating fleet of U.S. power reactors.
Power reactors of this general type continue to produce heat from radioactive decay products even after the main reaction is shut down, so it is necessary to remove this heat to avoid meltdown of the reactor core. In the AP1000, Westinghouse's Passive Core Cooling System uses multiple explosively-operated and DC operated valves which must operate within the first 30 minutes. This is designed to happen even if the reactor operators take no action. The electrical system required for initiating the passive systems doesn't rely on external or diesel power and the valves don't rely on hydraulic or compressed air systems.
The design is intended to passively remove heat for 72 hours, after which its gravity drain water tank must be topped up for as long as cooling is required.
|January 27, 2006||NRC issues the final design certification rule (DCR)|
|March 10, 2006||NRC issues revised FDA for Revision 15 of the Westinghouse design|
|May 26, 2007||Westinghouse applies to amend the DCR (Revision 16)|
|September 22, 2008||Westinghouse updated its application|
|October 14, 2008||Westinghouse provides a corrected set for Revision 17 of the design|
|December 1, 2010||Westinghouse submits Revision 18 of the design|
|June 13, 2011||Westinghouse submits Revision 19 of the design|
|December 30, 2011||NRC issues the final DC amendment final rule|
Revision 15 of the AP1000 design has an unusual containment structure which has received approval by the NRC, after a Safety Evaluation Report, and a Design Certification Rule. Revisions 17, 18, and 19 were also approved 
Safety concerns 
In April 2010, Arnold Gundersen, a nuclear engineer commissioned by several anti-nuclear groups, released a report which explored a hazard associated with the possible rusting through of the containment structure steel liner. In the AP1000 design, the liner and the concrete are separated, and if the steel rusts through, "there is no backup containment behind it" according to Gundersen. If the dome rusted through the design would expel radioactive contaminants and the plant "could deliver a dose of radiation to the public that is 10 times higher than the N.R.C. limit" according to Gundersen. Vaughn Gilbert, a spokesman for Westinghouse, has disputed Gundersen’s assessment, stating that the AP1000's steel containment vessel is three-and-a-half to five times thicker than the liners used in current designs, and that corrosion would be readily apparent during routine inspection.
Edwin Lyman, a senior staff scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, has challenged specific cost-saving design choices made for both the AP1000 and ESBWR, another new design. Lyman is concerned about the strength of the steel containment vessel and the concrete shield building around the AP1000. The AP1000 containment vessel does not have sufficient safety margins, says Lyman.
Potentially the most damaging critique of the AP1000 comes from John Ma, a senior structural engineer at the NRC.
In 2009, the NRC made a safety change related to the events of September 11, ruling that all plants be designed to withstand the direct hit from a plane. To meet the new requirement, Westinghouse encased the AP1000 buildings concrete walls in steel plates. Last year Ma, a member of the NRC since it was formed in 1974, filed the first "non-concurrence" dissent of his career after the NRC granted the design approval. In it Ma argues that some parts of the steel skin are so brittle that the "impact energy" from a plane strike or storm driven projectile could shatter the wall. A team of engineering experts hired by Westinghouse disagreed...
In 2012, Ellen Vancko, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that "the Westinghouse AP1000 has a weaker containment, less redundancy in safety systems, and fewer safety features than current reactors". In response to Ms. Vancko's concerns, climate policies author and retired nuclear engineer Zvi J. Doron, replied that the AP1000’s safety is enhanced by fewer active components, not compromised as Ms. Vancko suggests. As in direct contrast to currently operating reactors, the AP1000 has been designed around the concept of Passive nuclear safety.
Construction plans 
- The Sanmen Nuclear Power Plant in Zhejiang will have six units. Site construction for the first two began in February 2008; operation is scheduled for 2013–15.
- The Haiyang Nuclear Power Plant in Shandong also has six units planned. Site construction for the first two began in July 2008; operation is scheduled for 2014–15.
The first four AP1000s to be built are to an earlier revision of the design without a strengthened containment structure to provide improved protection against an aircraft crash.
China has officially adopted the AP1000 as a standard for inland nuclear projects. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has already approved several nuclear projects, including the Dafan plant in Hubei province, Taohuajiang in Hunan, and Pengze in Jiangxi. The NDRC is studying additional projects in Anhui, Jilin and Gansu provinces. China wants to have 100 units under construction and operating by 2020, according to Aris Candris, Westinghouse's CEO. However, according to a 2011 report in The Australian, AP1000 reactors are not yet in operation anywhere in the world and use as yet unproven technology. Paul Garvey has said "it would be wise for China to build and test one or two of the new reactors before committing to a wide-scale rollout".
In 2008 and 2009, Westinghouse made agreements to work with the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) and other institutes to develop a larger design, the CAP1400 of 1400 MWe capacity, possibly followed by a 1700 MWe design. China will own the intellectual property rights for these larger designs. Exporting the new larger units may be possible with Westinghouse's cooperation.
- Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant in North Carolina,
- William States Lee III Nuclear Generating Station in South Carolina,
- Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station in South Carolina.
- Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Georgia.
- Levy County Nuclear Power Plant in Florida,
- Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station in Florida
- Bellefonte Nuclear Generating Station in Alabama.
On April 9, 2008, Georgia Power Company reached a contract agreement with Westinghouse and Shaw for two AP1000 reactors to be built at Vogtle. The contract represents the first agreement for new nuclear development since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. The COL for the Vogtle site is to be based on the revision 18 to the AP1000 design. On February 16, 2010, President Obama announced $8.33 billion dollars in federal loan guarantees to construct the two AP1000 units at the Vogtle plant. The cost of building the two reactors is expected to be $14 billion.
Environmental groups opposed to the licensing of the two new AP1000 reactors to be built at Vogtle filed a new petition in April 2011 asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's commission to suspend the licensing process until more is known about the evolving Fukushima I nuclear accidents. As of February 2012, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved the two proposed reactors at the Vogtle plant.
See also 
- Nuclear safety in the United States
- Nuclear power in the People's Republic of China
- Economics of new nuclear power plants
- Nuclear Power 2010 Program
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