Michael Shellenberger: You might have heard about a new kind of nuclear reactor that promises far greater safety at a much lower cost. How? It is much simpler and thus requires “half as many safety-related valves, 83 percent less safety-related pipe and one-third fewer pumps;” Its components can be manufactured in a factory and assembled on-site at lower cost rather than built from scratch; Its cooling and passive safety features rely on “natural forces, like gravity… rather than relying on mechanical pumps powered by electricity.” These features mean it will have a very low cost. How low? “Somewhere between $1.4 billion and $1.9 billion” per reactor. Does such an advanced nuclear reactor actually exist? It does. It is the Westinghouse “Advanced Pressurized 1000”, or AP1000. But instead of taking four years to build it will take nine — and instead of costing the mere $1.4 to $1.9 billion Westinghouse promised, it will cost five to ten times more. What went wrong? The “source of the biggest delays can be traced to the AP1000’s innovative design,” concluded investigative reporters with the St. Louis Dispatch, “and the challenges created by the untested approach to manufacturing and building reactors.” (Research I conducted last year, and by other journalists, came to the same conclusion.) In the end, Westinghouse went bankrupt, and the building of two AP1000s in South Carolina was cancelled. It’s not clear any more of the reactors will ever be built.
Forbes 18th July 2018 read more »