Generation III reactor

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Model of Toshiba ABWR. The first Generation III reactor to come online 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, passive nuclear safety systems and standardised design for reduced maintenance and capital costs. The first Generation III reactor to begin operation was Kashiwazaki 6 (an ABWR) in 1996.

Due to the lack of reactor construction in the Western world, very few third generation reactors have been built in developed nations. In general, Generation IV designs are still in development, and might come online in the 2030s.[1]


Generation III+ AP1000 reactor.

Though the distinction is arbitrary, the improvements in reactor technology in third generation reactors are intended to 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 pressure vessel replacement).

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[2] 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.[2]

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.[3]

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.[4][5] Other engineers do not agree with these concerns, and claim the containment building is more than sufficient in safety margins and factors of safety.[5][6]

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."[7]: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.[8]

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 Russian-built generation III VVER-1200 reactor became operational at Novovoronezh Nuclear Power Plant II in Russia.[9] Several others are in construction in Europe, including the EPR at Flamanville. The next third generation reactor predicted to come on line is a Westinghouse AP1000 reactor, the Sanmen Nuclear Power Station in China, which was scheduled to become operational in 2015.[10] Its completion has since been delayed until 2017.[11]

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.[12]

Generation III reactors[edit]

Generation III reactors operational or under construction.
Developer Reactor name Type MWe (gross) Notes
General Electric/Toshiba/Hitachi ABWR BWR 1356 In operation at Kashiwazari, Japan in 1996. NRC certified in 1997.[7]
KEPCO APR-1400 PWR 1450 In operation at Kori, Korea since Jan 2016.
CGNPG/CNNC Hualong One Development of the CPR-1000 and ACP1000 Chinese reactors.[13]
OKB Gidropress VVER-1200/392M 1200 In operation at Novovoronezh II, Russia.[14]
VVER-1200/491 Sold as MIR-1200. Prototype unit expected to be operating by 2018 at Leningrad.
VVER-1200/513 First unit expected to be completed by 2022 at Akkuyu, Turkey.
OKBM BN-800 FBR 880 Demonstration fast reactor in commercial operation since Aug 2016 at Beloyarsk.

Generation III designs not adopted or built yet[edit]

Developer Reactor name Type MWe (gross) Notes
Mitsubishi APWR PWR 1700 Two units planned at Tsuruga cancelled in 2011.
Westinghouse AP600 600 NRC certified in 1999.[7] Evolved into the larger AP1000 design.[15]
Combustion Engineering System 80+ NRC certified in 1997.[7] Provided a basis for the Korean APR-1400.[16]
Candu Energy Inc. EC6 PHWR 750
BARC Advanced Heavy Water Reactor In development by India to utilize thorium.

Generation III+ reactors[edit]

Generation III+ designs offer significant improvements in safety and economics over Generation III advanced reactor designs.[17]

Generation III+ reactors under construction.
Developer Reactor name Type MWe (gross) Notes
Westinghouse/Toshiba AP1000 PWR 1200 NRC certified Dec 2005.[7] First unit expected to be completed by 2017 at Sanmen, China.
Areva EPR 1750 First unit expected to be completed by 2017 at Taishan, China.
Areva/Mitsubishi ATMEA1 1150 First unit expected to be completed by 2023 at Sinop, Turkey.

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

Developer Reactor name Type MWe (gross) Notes
General Electric/Hitachi ESBWR BWR 1600 Based on the ABWR.
KEPCO APR+ PWR 1550 APR-1400 with increased output and safety features.
OKB Gidropress VVER-1300/510 1255 Also referred to as VVER-TOI, based on V392M.
Babcock & Wilcox/Bechtel B&W mPower 160 Small modular reactor. [1]
Candu Energy Inc. ACR-1000 PHWR 1200

See also[edit]


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

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