Is a paradigm shift—an economic and engineering earthquake—in nuclear power plant design on the horizon? For most of the past 50 years, the mantra in planning new nuclear plants has been “bigger is better.” But a growing number of nuclear power engineers and designers are contemplating a world where small is beautiful.
The commercial nuclear industry is in the midst of developing multiple reactor technology options. Next in our series of articles exploring competing reactor technologies are GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) and Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR). The design improvements incorporated into these reactors include passive safety systems, design and construction simplification, and component standardization to reduce construction and operating costs.
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The Atomic Energy Act originally established the length of a U.S. commercial nuclear reactor license as 40 years and made it renewable for another 20 years. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has stated that it bases the length of these licenses (and the 50+ renewed licenses granted to date) not on any particular technical limitation but on whether the plant meets current safety requirements. Does this mean there could be reactor life after 60?
EPRI recently issued a handbook on nuclear spent fuel storage that examines regulatory trends affecting used fuel storage, describes available dry storage technologies, reviews planning considerations for spent fuel storage installations, and discusses technical issues affecting dry storage.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved an updated “waste confidence” rule in mid-September that reflects the agency’s confidence that spent nuclear fuel (SNF) can be safely stored for at least 60 years beyond the closing date of any U.S. nuclear plant. Approval of this rule was required before the NRC can license any new reactors that will be required to store SNF on site indefinitely.
Exelon Nuclear recently replaced the original motor-generator sets for its boiling water reactor (BWR) recirculation pumps at its Quad Cities Generating Station Unit 1 with adjustable-speed drives. We examine the actual energy savings, motor-starting characteristics, control accuracy and stability, and motor and cable thermal behavior of this retrofit project.
The first unit of Ling Ao phase II (Unit 3) in Guangdong Province, China, entered commercial operation in late September. The 1,080-MW reactor is the first CPR-1000—a Chinese design—to be built, and its start-up marks a major milestone in the country’s concerted nuclear power expansion.
Utilities are spending billions of dollars on nuclear plant uprate projects, and Southern Company has been offered $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees to build Vogtle Units 3 and 4 (although the final deal has yet to be signed). Meanwhile, other nuclear developers have slashed preconstruction spending as the cost of the “nuclear renaissance” becomes evident.
Atomstroyexport, the Russian Federation’s nuclear power equipment and services export monopoly, in September signed a US$1.8 billion contract with the Chinese government for development of the second stage of the Tianwan nuclear power plant in Lianyungang City. Under the agreement, Units 3 and 4 are to be built in a way similar to construction of the first stage of Tianwan—two Russian-designed VVER-1000 reactors that came online in 2007, each with a rated capacity of 1,060 MW.