China switches on world’s first ‘third-generation’ nuclear reactor
WASHINGTON – China flipped on a new generation of nuclear energy reactor on Friday, a milestone that nuclear campaigners hope makes the technology more appealing as the world seeks to limit carbon emissions.
The “third-generation” reactor known as EPR was manufactured by French and German engineers and contains redundant safety features like fail-safe valves that remain either open or closed, or use battery power, to maintain reactor cooling in blackouts or other emergencies.
There are even more of those “passive” safety features in another third-generation reactor, the AP1000 designed by the U.S. firm Westinghouse.
Dr. Ashley Finan is the executive director of the Nuclear Innovation Alliance.
“One example is a pool of water above the reactor which would drain into the reactor if the reactor lost the ability to circulate coolant. So you have gravity that drains the reactor. Gravity always works.”
But just because third-generation nuclear reactors are cutting-edge, that doesn’t mean they’ll be popping up all over the U.S. just yet, thanks in part to the low price of natural gas.