While both the demand for energy and energy prices continue to increase, nonrenewable sources of energy, particularly fossil fuels, are decreasing. These factors, coupled with the effects of pollution and global warming, are driving consumers and industry to call for a better solution to the world’s energy needs.
Some suggest that the solution might be found by making innovative technological improvements to an existing source of energy- nuclear power. Currently, nuclear power supplies 16 percent of the world’s energy.
Unlike coal, natural gas, or oil-all nonrenewable and subject to price volatility-nuclear power plants are fueled by uranium, a relatively abundant element that occurs naturally in the earth’s crust. Plus, nuclear energy is the world’s largest source of emission-free energy. Nuclear power plants produce no controlled air pollut-ants or greenhouse gases.
One of the latest developments in the production of nuclear energy comes from Westinghouse Electric Company. It has introduced what’s been described as the safest and most economical nuclear power plant available in the worldwide commercial marketplace-the AP1000. It’s the first reactor of its class to receive Design Certification from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Based on 20 years of research and development, the reactor builds on the proven technology of major components used in current Westinghouse-designed plants. These components include steam generators, digital instrumentation and controls, fuel, reactor coolant pumps and integrated engineering-and have years of reliable operating experience.
Using this established technology as a jumping-off point, the innovative design of the reactor is said to offer distinct advantages over other reactors-including unequaled safety, economic competitiveness and improved and more efficient operations.
The AP1000’s innovative approach to safety reduces the need for human intervention and the potential for human error. Its simplified construction design can lead to significant savings in plant costs and an accelerated construction schedule.