New Nuclear Reactor Plant design is simpler, using gravity and natural heat convection

NYTimes reports on Westinghouse has NRC approval for a new nuclear reactor design.

Approval of Reactor Design Clears Path for New Plants


Westinghouse's AP1000 nuclear power plant will use a design that relies on forces like gravity and natural heat convection.

The decision, a milestone in the much-delayed revival of plant construction sought by the nuclear industry, involves the Westinghouse AP1000, a 1,154-megawatt reactor with a so-called advanced passive design. It relies more heavily on forces like gravity and natural heat convection and less on pumps, valves and operator actions than other models do, in theory diminishing the probability of an accident.

Here are details on how much simpler the design is.

The AP1000 design saves money and time with an accelerated construction time period of approximately 36 months, from the pouring of first concrete to the loading of fuel. Also, the innovative AP1000 features:

  • 50% fewer safety-related valves
  • 80% less safety-related piping
  • 85% less control cable
  • 35% fewer pumps
  • 45% less seismic building volume


Some of the design details sound like a modular data center construction.

Two of the drivers of plant construction costs are the cost of financing during the construction phase and the substantial amount of skilled-craft-labor hours needed on site during construction. TheAP1000® technique of modularization of plant construction mitigates both of these drivers.

Overnight construction costs
The AP1000 was designed to reduce capital costs and to be economically competitive with contemporary fossil-fueled plants. The amount of safety-grade equipment required is greatly reduced by using the passive safety system design. Consequently, less Seismic Category I building volume is required to house the safety equipment (approximately 45 percent less than a typical reactor). Modular construction design further reduces cost and shortens the construction schedule. Using advanced computer modeling capabilities, Westinghouse is able to optimize, choreograph and simulate the construction plan. The result is very high confidence in the construction schedule.