The Energy Spectator

Nuclear Since Fukushima

One year later, there have be no casualties from radiation. But will the worldwide Nuclear Renaissance revive?

By From the March 2012 issue

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China has shrugged off Fukushima and is proceeding with plans to expand nuclear at all due speed. The Chinese are constructing the world's first four Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, the first scheduled to go online in 2013. The AP1000's "passive" design employs natural convection currents instead of electric pumps to circulate cooling water and will be able to avoid a Fukushima-type emergency.

Altogether China has 27 reactors under construction, with dozens more in the planning stage. All are being built on time and on budget. Last year Anne Lauvergeon, former CEO of France's Areva, complained that the Chinese were building Areva's EPR faster and cheaper than the French can do it themselves. Seventeen of the new reactors are the CPR-1000, China's own design, pirated from Westinghouse's AP1000. China has not yet tried to sell the design abroad, but when it does it could quickly dominate world markets.

The Chinese are also exploring futuristic technologies in a way that was once attempted in this country but has been abandoned. In 2011 the Chinese National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced the commercialization of its first Integral Fast Breeder Reactor, a design that burns any kind of nuclear fuel and can eliminate the problem of "nuclear waste." Project director Wang Junfeng told reporters that recycling could provide China 3,000 years' worth of cheap electricity. America built an Integral Fast Breeder at the Idaho National Laboratory in the 1980s, but the Clinton administration excised it as part of a nuclear phase-out in 1994.

It was not surprising, then, that when Bill Gates' new company, Intellectual Ventures, headed by Mi-crosoft's former head of research, Nathan Myhrvold, decided to attempt an experimental model of its futuristic Travelling Wave Reactor, Gates ended up in Peking signing an agreement with the CNNC. The Travelling Wave promises to reprocess its own wastes and run for 100 years without refueling. Gates saw no possibility of moving ahead with the project in the United States.

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About the Author
William Tucker is news editor for RealClearEnergy.org.