Generation III reactor

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A generation III reactor is a development of any of the generation II nuclear reactor designs incorporating evolutionary improvements in design developed during the lifetime of the generation II reactor designs. These include improved fuel technology, superior thermal efficiency, passive safety systems and standardized design for reduced maintenance and capital costs. The first Generation III reactor to have begun was at Kashiwazaki in 1996. Generation IV reactors are not presently (2014) commercially operating save for 1 or 2 reactors, in most part, Gen IV designs are still in development and have as of yet, not been widely adopted.

Advantages and disadvantages[edit]

Improvements in reactor technology result in a longer operational life (60 years of operation, extendable to 120+ years of operation prior to complete overhaul and reactor pressure vessel replacement) compared with currently used generation II reactors (designed for 40 years of operation, extendable to 80+ years of operation prior to complete overhaul and RPV replacement). Furthermore, core damage frequencies for these reactors are lower than for Generation II reactors — 60 core damage events per 1000 million reactor–years for the EPR; 3 core damage events per 1000 million reactor–years for the ESBWR[1] significantly lower than the 10,000 core damage events per 1000 million reactor–years for BWR/4 generation II reactors.[1]

The Generation III EPR reactor was designed to use uranium more efficiently than older Generation II reactors, using approximately 17% less uranium per unit of electricity generated than these older reactor technologies.[2]

Response and criticism[edit]

Proponents of nuclear power and some who have historically been critical have both acknowledged that Gen III reactors as a whole are safer than older reactors. However, while there are some strong proponents of the American Gen III designs that claim they are much safer than existing reactors in the US, other engineers, although not outright saying that they are not safer, are more conservative and have some specific concerns. Edwin Lyman, a senior staff scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, has challenged specific cost-saving design choices made for two generation III reactors, both the AP1000 and ESBWR. Lyman, John Ma (a senior structural engineer at the NRC), and Arnold Gundersen (an anti-nuclear consultant) are concerned about what they perceive as weaknesses in the steel containment vessel and the concrete shield building around the AP1000. They say that the AP1000 containment vessel does not have sufficient safety margins in the event of a direct airplane strike.[3][4] Other engineers do not agree with these concerns, and claim the containment building is more than sufficient in safety margins and Factors of safety.

The Union of Concerned Scientists in 2008 referred to the EPR as the only new reactor design under consideration in the United States that "...appears to have the potential to be significantly safer and more secure against attack than today's reactors."[5]

Existing and future reactors[edit]

The first generation III reactors were built in Japan, in the form of Advanced Boiling Water Reactors, while several others are in construction in Europe, including the EPR at Flamanville. The next Gen III reactor predicted to come on line is a Westinghouse AP1000 reactor, scheduled to become operational in Sanmen China, in late 2014.[6]

For the US reactor designs are certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). As of July 2012 it has approved 4 and is considering a further 6 designs.[7]

Generation III reactors[edit]

GEN III designs not adopted or built yet[edit]

Generation III+ reactors[edit]

Generation III+ designs offer significant improvements in safety and economics over Generation III advanced reactor designs certified by the NRC in the 1990s.[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]