Generation III reactor

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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 standardized design for reduced maintenance and capital costs. The first Generation III reactor to begin operation was Kashiwazaki (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]


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 100 million reactor-years for the EPR; 3 core damage events per 100 million reactor-years for the ESBWR[2] 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 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]

Proponents of nuclear power and some who have historically been critical have both 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.[citation needed]

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."[6]: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 and the United Kingdom.[7]

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 third generation reactor predicted to come on line is a Westinghouse AP1000 reactor, scheduled to become operational in Sanmen China, in 2015.[8]

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 5 designs as well.[9]

Generation III reactors[edit]

Third generation 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.[13]

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. ^ Matthew L. Wald. Critics Challenge Safety of New Reactor Design New York Times, April 22, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Nuclear Power in a warming world." (PDF). Union of Concerned Scientists. Dec 2007. Retrieved 1 October 2008. 
  7. ^ "Flaw found in French nuclear reactor - BBC News". BBC News. Retrieved 2015-10-29. 
  8. ^ "China Nuclear Power". World Nuclear Association. Retrieved 2014-07-14. 
  9. ^ "Design Certification Applications for New Reactors". U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 
  10. ^ "China's progress continues". Nuclear Engineering International. 11 August 2015. Retrieved 30 October 2015. 
  11. ^ "New Commercial Reactor Designs". Archived from the original on 2009-01-02. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b DEAD URL - Try

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