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Monday 21 August 2017

Energy Frontiers: Meltdown proof nuclear!

China is leading the charge with novel nuclear technology promising unprecedented safety. South China Morning Post article "China pips the US in race to start the first melt-down proof power plant", highlights the significant steps China is taking to boost its clean nuclear power capacity

Firstly with a 1 GW AP1000 reactor being the commissioned in the next few weeks in Sanmen County in Zhejiang province. The Westinghouse designed AP1000 "is a simple , genius solution to reduce the risk of nuclear meltdown" according to Shan Jianqiang , professor and author of several university texts on reactor safety and operation.
"Compared with current technology, the AP1000 reactor is theoretically 100 times safer, requires 80 per cent less piping, 85 per cent fewer control cables, and need a third fewer pumps."
Two further reactors using Europe's Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR) design, with similar safety parameters to the AP1000, in Taishan in Guandong province are under construction and due to be commissioned over the next 12 months. (This represents several years delay from their original implementation schedule (see EPR)

With the commissioning of the reactor in Zhejiang China will be the first to implement the AP1000 design. having overtaken the US's two construction projects that commenced construction earlier but experienced significant construction delays. The new AP1000 design has proved very popular with multiple projects in progress throughout the world. It has not been without problems however, Westinghouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to heavy cost overruns during its development.

EPR reactors have faced similar cost overruns and development delays. Again there are many projects in progress but none have been commissioned to date.

While solar and wind seem to take top media attention, nuclear is making a quiet resurgence and looks to become the backbone of clean energy supply in many parts of the world. As we have seen with the heavy reliance of South Australia on intermittent renewables, intermittency is a major drawback. Reliable baseload supply is an absolute must for any modern economy.

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