US approves new nuclear reactor design

2011-12-23 11:27
Washington - US government regulators have approved a nuclear reactor designed by Westinghouse Electric Co that could power the first nuclear plants built from scratch in the US in more than three decades.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission unanimously approved the AP1000 reactor on Thursday. The certification, effective immediately, will be valid for 15 years.

NRC Chairperson Gregory Jaczko said the newly approved design would ensure safety through simplified, passive security functions and other features. He said plants using the design could withstand damage from an airplane crash without significant release of radioactive materials - an issue that gained attention after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Approval of the design is a major step forward for utility companies in four southern states that have billions of dollars riding on plans to build AP1000 reactors in the Southeast. Without NRC approval, the utilities could not have obtained a license to build their plants.

'Safe, clean electricity'

Federal officials approved an earlier version of the AP1000 reactor in 2006, but it was never built in the United States. Four AP1000 reactors are now under construction in China.

Aris Candris, Westinghouse president and chief executive, said the road to receiving design certification of the AP1000 "has been long and sometimes arduous".

The NRC vote brings the US "one step closer to constructing AP1000 units and putting thousands to work to ultimately provide future generations with safe, clean and reliable electricity," he said.

The biggest difference between the AP1000 and existing reactors is its safety systems, including a massive water tank on top of its cylindrical concrete-and-steel shielding building. In case of an accident, water would flow down and cool the steel container that holds critical parts of the reactor - including its hot, radioactive nuclear fuel.

An NRC taskforce examining the nuclear crisis in Japan said licensing for the AP1000 should go forward because it would be better equipped to deal with a prolonged loss of power - the problem that doomed the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

Marilyn Kray, president of NuStart Energy Development, a nuclear industry consortium that has worked to demonstrate the design's effectiveness, said she was pleased to see the design move forward.

"The AP1000 is the reactor design that will set the foundation for the next generation of nuclear plants in the US," Kray said.

Efficient and cost-effective

A nuclear watchdog group called the vote disappointing, saying the NRC should have done a new analysis in the wake of the Japan crisis, which occurred after a March 11 tsunami sent three reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant into meltdowns in the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.

A new study could have helped identify and correct any vulnerabilities based on lessons learned from Fukushima, said Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

"It would be more efficient and cost-effective to address problems that could be corrected at the design stage now, before any new plants are constructed," Lyman said.

After plants are built, any new safety requirements would have to be addressed through costly retrofits and other actions, Lyman said, adding that he was "far from convinced" that the AP1000's passive safety features would be effective in coping with severe accidents.

- AP
Read more on:    us  |  nuclear
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!

It’s the season to be jolly – so we’ve rounded up some new Joburg hot spots!

 
 

I love summer.24

The craziest deaths of 2014
How to make this a sensual, sexy summer!
This is what South Africans Googled in 2014!
This hilarious song is your new holiday anthem

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is so much going on around you and inside your head. You may want to take your ideas to the next level. Romance may be...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.