Improved and Safer Nuclear Power

Science  21 Apr 1989:
Vol. 244, Issue 4902, pp. 318-325
DOI: 10.1126/science.244.4902.318


Recent progress in advanced nuclear power development in the United States is revealing high potential for nuclear reactor systems that are smaller and easier to operate than the present generation. Passive, or intrinsic, characteristics are applied not only to provide inherent stability of the chain reaction but also to ensure continued cooling of the fuel and its containment systems even if a major breakdown of the normal cooling and control functions were to occur. The chance of a severe accident is thereby substantially reduced. The plant designs that are emerging are simpler and more rugged, have a longer life span, and place less burden on equipment and operating personnel. Modular design concepts and design standardization are also used to reduce construction time and engineering costs, giving promise that the cost of generating power from these systems will be competitive with alternative methods.