Generation III reactor

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Model of the Toshiba ABWR, which became the first operational Generation III reactor in 1996.

A Generation III reactor is a development of 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, significantly enhanced safety systems (including passive nuclear safety), and standardized designs for reduced maintenance and capital costs. The first Generation III reactor to begin operation was Kashiwazaki 6 (an ABWR) in 1996.

Due to the prolonged period of stagnation in the construction of new reactors and the continued (but declining) popularity of Generation II/II+ designs in new construction, relatively few third generation reactors have been built. Generation IV designs are still in development as of 2017, and are not expected to start entering commercial operation until 2020–2030.[1]


Though the distinction is arbitrary, the improvements in reactor technology in third generation reactors are intended to result in a longer operational life (designed for 60 years of operation, extendable to 100+ 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 60+ years of operation prior to complete overhaul and pressure vessel replacement).[2][3]

The core damage frequencies for these reactors are designed to be lower than for Generation II reactors – 60 core damage events for the EPR and 3 core damage events for the ESBWR[4] per 100 million reactor-years are significantly lower than the 1,000 core damage events per 100 million reactor-years for BWR/4 Generation II reactors.[4]

The third generation EPR reactor was also 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.[5]

Response and criticism[edit]

EPR core catching room designed to catch the corium in case of a meltdown.

Proponents of nuclear power and some who have historically been critical have acknowledged that third generation reactors as a whole are safer than older reactors. However, while there are some strong proponents of the American third generation 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 in that its containment vessel does not have sufficient safety margins in the event of a direct airplane strike.[6][7] Other engineers do not agree with these concerns, and claim the containment building is more than sufficient in safety margins and factors of safety.[7][8]

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."[9]:7

There have also been issues in fabricating the precision parts necessary to maintain safe operation of these reactors, with cost overruns, broken parts, and extremely fine steel tolerances causing issues with new reactors under construction in France.[10]

Existing and future reactors[edit]

The first Generation III reactors were built in Japan, in the form of Advanced Boiling Water Reactors. In 2016 a Generation III+ VVER-1200/392M reactor became operational at Novovoronezh Nuclear Power Plant II in Russia, which was the first operational Generation III+ reactor.[11] Several other Generation III+ reactors are under late-stage construction in Europe, China, and the United States. The next Generation III+ reactor predicted to come online is a Westinghouse AP1000 reactor, the Sanmen Nuclear Power Station in China, which was scheduled to become operational in 2015.[12] Its completion has since been delayed until 2017.[13]

In the USA, reactor designs are certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). As of October 2014 the commission has approved five designs, and is considering another five designs as well.[14]

Generation III reactors[edit]

Generation III reactors currently operational or under construction[edit]

Developer(s) Reactor name(s) Type MWe (net) MWe (gross) MWth Notes
General Electric, Toshiba, Hitachi ABWR;
BWR 1350 1420 3926 In operation at Kashiwazari since 1996. NRC certified in 1997.[9]
KEPCO APR-1400 PWR 1383 1455 3983 In operation at Kori since Jan 2016.
CGNPG ACPR-1000 1061 1119 2905 Improved version of the CPR-1000. First reactor is due to come online in 2018 at Yangjiang-5.
CGNPG, CNNC Hualong One;
1090 1170 3050 In part a merger of the Chinese ACPR-1000 and ACP-1000 designs, but ultimately an incrementally developed improvement on the prior CNP-1000 and CP-1000 designs.[15] It was initially intended to be named the "ACC-1000", but was ultimately named as the "Hualong One" or "HPR-1000". Fangchenggang Units 3–6 will be the first to utilize the HPR-1000 design, with Units 3 & 4 currently under construction as of 2017.[16]
OKBM Afrikantov VVER-1000/428 990 1060 3000 First version of the AES-91 design, designed and used for Tianwan Units 1 & 2, which came online in 2007.
VVER-1000/428M 1050 1126 3000 Another version of the AES-91 design, also designed and used for Tianwan (this time for Units 3 & 4, which are currently under construction with an expected completion in 2018).
VVER-1000/412 917 1000 3000 First constructed AES-92 design, used for the Kudankulam.
BN-800 FBR 789 885 2100 Demonstration sodium-cooled fast breeder reactor reactor in full (100% power) commercial operation since 2016 at Beloyarsk-4.

Generation III designs not adopted or built yet[edit]

Developer(s) Reactor name(s) Type MWe (net) MWe (gross) MWth Notes
General Electric, Hitachi ABWR-II BWR 1638 1717 4960 Improved version of the ABWR. Uncertain development status.
Mitsubishi APWR;
PWR 1600 1700 4451 Two units planned at Tsuruga cancelled in 2011. US NRC licensing for two units planned at Comanche Peak was suspended in 2013. The original APWR and the updated US-APWR/EU-APWR (also known as the APWR+) differ significantly in their design characteristics, with the APWR+ having higher efficiency and electrical output.
Westinghouse AP600 600 619 ? NRC certified in 1999.[9] Evolved into the larger AP1000 design.[17]
Combustion Engineering System 80+ 1350 1400 ? NRC certified in 1997.[9] Provided a basis for the Korean APR-1400.[18]
OKBM Afrikantov VVER-1000/466(B) 1011 ? 3000 This was the first AES-92 design to be developed, originally intended to be built at the proposed Belene Nuclear Power Plant, but construction was later halted.
Candu Energy Inc. EC6 PHWR ? 750 2084 The EC6 (Enhanced CANDU 6) is an evolutionary upgrade of previous CANDU designs. Like other CANDU designs, it is capable of using unenriched natural uranium as fuel.
AFCR ? 740 2084 The Advanced Fuel Candu Reactor is a modified EC6 design that has been optimized for extreme fuel flexibility with the ability to handle numerous potential reprocessed fuel blends and even thorium. It is currently undergoing late-stage development as part of a joint venture between SNC-Lavalin and CNNC.

Generation III+ reactors[edit]

Generation III+ designs offer significant improvements in safety and economics over Generation III advanced reactor designs.[19]

Generation III+ reactors currently operational or under construction[edit]

Developer(s) Reactor name(s) Type MWe (net) MWe (gross) MWth Notes
Westinghouse, Toshiba AP1000 PWR 1117 1250 3400 NRC certified Dec 2005.[9] First unit expected to be completed in 2017 at Sanmen.
SNPTC, Westinghouse CAP1400 1400 1500 4058 The first Chinese co-developed and upsized "native" version/derivative of the AP1000. Westinghouse's co-development agreement gives China the IP rights for all co-developed plants >1350 MWe. First two units currently under construction at Shidao Bay. The CAP1400 is planned to be followed by a CAP1700 and/or a CAP2100 design if the cooling systems can be scaled up by far enough.
Areva EPR 1660 1750 4590 First unit expected to be completed in 2017 at Taishan.
Areva, Mitsubishi ATMEA1 1150 ? 3150 First unit expected to be completed by 2023 at Sinop.
OKB Gidropress VVER-1200/392M 1114 1180 3200 The VVER-1200 series is also known as the AES-2006/MIR-1200 design. Original basis for the VVER-TOI project. In operation since 2017 at Novovoronezh II.[20]
VVER-1200/491 1111 1199 3200 Prototype unit expected to be operating by 2018 at Leningrad.
VVER-1200/513 ? 1200 3200 Standardized version of the VVER-1200 based in part on the VVER-1300/510 design (which is the current reference design for the VVER-TOI project). First unit expected to be completed by 2022 at Akkuyu.

Generation III+ designs not adopted or built yet[edit]

Developer(s) Reactor name(s) Type MWe (net) MWe (gross) MWth Notes
Toshiba EU-ABWR BWR ? 1600 4300 Updated version of the ABWR designed to meet EU guidelines, increase reactor output, and improve design generation to III+.
Areva Kerena 1250 1290 3370 Previously known as the SWR-1000. Based on German BWR designs, mainly that of Gundremmingen units B/C. Co-developed by Areva and E.ON.
General Electric, Hitachi ESBWR 1520 1600 4500 Based on the ABWR. Being considered for North Anna-3.
KEPCO APR+ PWR 1505 1560 ? APR-1400 successor with increased output and additional safety features.
OKB Gidropress VVER-1300/510 1175 1255 ? The VVER-1300 design is also known as the AES-2010 design, and is sometimes mistakenly designated as the VVER-TOI design. The VVER-1300/510 is based on the VVER-1200/392M that was originally used as the reference design for the VVER-TOI project, although the VVER-1300/510 now serves that role (which has led to confusion between the VVER-TOI plant design and the VVER-1300/510 reactor design). Multiple units are currently planned for construction at several Russian nuclear plants.
VVER-600/498 ? 600 ? Essentially a scaled-down VVER-1200. Commercial deployment planned by 2030 at Kola.
Candu Energy Inc. ACR-1000 PHWR 1085 1165 3200 The Advanced CANDU Reactor is a hybrid CANDU design that retains the heavy water moderator but replaces the heavy water coolant with conventional light water coolant, significantly reducing costs compared to traditional CANDU designs but losing the characteristic CANDU capability of using unenriched natural uranium as fuel.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Generation IV Nuclear Reactors". World Nuclear Association. 
  2. ^ "New material promises 120-year reactor lives". Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  3. ^ "Advanced Nuclear Power Reactors | Generation III+ Nuclear Reactors - World Nuclear Association". Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  4. ^ a b Next-generation nuclear energy: The ESBWR
  5. ^ page 126. 3 Rs of Nuclear Power: Reading, Recycling, and Reprocessing Making a Better ... By Jan Forsythe
  6. ^ Adam Piore (June 2011). "Nuclear energy: Planning for the Black Swan". Scientific American. 
  7. ^ a b Matthew L. Wald. Critics Challenge Safety of New Reactor Design New York Times, April 22, 2010.
  8. ^ "Sunday Dialogue: Nuclear Energy, Pro and Con". New York Times. February 25, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b c d e "Nuclear Power in a warming world." (PDF). Union of Concerned Scientists. Dec 2007. Retrieved 1 October 2008. 
  10. ^ "Flaw found in French nuclear reactor - BBC News". BBC News. Retrieved 2015-10-29. 
  11. ^ "В России запустили не имеющий аналогов в мире атомный энергоблок". 
  12. ^ "China Nuclear Power". World Nuclear Association. Retrieved 2014-07-14. 
  13. ^ "Newbuild: CNNC Reveals New Delay at Sanmen -- to 2017". Nuclear Intelligence Group. 29 May 2015. Retrieved 2 April 2016. 
  14. ^ "Design Certification Applications for New Reactors". U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 
  15. ^ Xing, Ji; Song, Daiyong; Wu, Yuxiang (1 March 2016). "HPR1000: Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor with Active and Passive Safety". Engineering. 2 (1): 79–87. doi:10.1016/J.ENG.2016.01.017. 
  16. ^ "China's progress continues". Nuclear Engineering International. 11 August 2015. Retrieved 30 October 2015. 
  17. ^ "New Commercial Reactor Designs". Archived from the original on 2009-01-02. 
  18. ^
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  20. ^ "В России запустили не имеющий аналогов в мире атомный энергоблок". 

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