Michael Fitzpatrick, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Lloyd’s Register Foundation Chair in Structural Integrity and Systems Performance, Coventry University: High-profile disasters such as Chernobyl and Fukushima have given nuclear power a bad name. Despite 60 years of nuclear generation without major accidents in many countries including Britain and France, many people have serious concerns about the safety of nuclear energy and the impact of the radioactive waste it generates. The very high capital cost of building a plant is also seen as a significant barrier, particularly given recent low oil prices. Plans to build a new British plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset are facing fresh opposition after it emerged the estimated lifetime costs had risen to £37 billion. Yet the high priority of reducing carbon emissions thanks to climate change means nuclear power looks more important than ever. Luckily, the next generation of reactors could hold the answer. With more in-built safety systems and a way to reuse old fuel, they are set to make nuclear power safer and, potentially, cheaper. Future reactor technologies –- so-called “Gen IV” designs – offer even better inherent safety. One of their key features are fully passive cooling systems so the reactor is never dependent on external power for safety. The reactor is carefully designed so that overheating actually reduces, rather than increases, the power output of the core. The core and cooling systems are not pressurised, and using liquids other than water for cooling prevents the risk of creating hydrogen: both of which drastically reduce the risk of explosions as occurred at Fukushima.
The Conversation 11th April 2017 read more »