One example of a generation III nuclear reactor is the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR). The ESBWR rectifies a few important disadvantages of previous reactor generations. It incorporates improved fuel technology as well as passive safety systems. The reactor shuts down safely in any emergency without operator action or electronic feedback.
The ESBWR design reduces capital cost by 25 to 40 percent, a vitally important consideration in cash-strapped developing countries. This cost reduction has been made possible by simpler design of the circuits to incorporate natural circulatory forces and to modern computer-aided manufacturing technologies. The latter enables a modular approach to the nuclear plant construction.
The primary impediment to the use of generation III reactors in developing countries is the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Much of the material and knowledge employed in civilian nuclear programmes can indeed be used to develop nuclear weapons. In the MIT Technology Review, Per Peterson (UC Berkeley professor of nuclear engineering) sums up the five main proliferation thread categories:
According to Peterson, these threads could be countered by:
However those remedies also come at a price and none of them can guarantee a 100 percent safety. So the question is whether it is worth taking the risks.Log in to post comments