Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The UK's first nuclear reactor for 25 years

The reactor design is more efficient, and safer, than those in existing plants. They are also good news in terms of climate change, but what they will do to energy prices is less clear as there is no 'true' competition its just another opportunity to rip us all off.

If the plan is to improve the UK's green credentials and energy security, however, yet more reactors are needed because Solar, Wind and wave currently cant produce the capacity with more infrastructure needed for distribution.

The two reactors, which could cost about £14 billion, will be built at Hinkley Point on the Somerset coast, which already has two nuclear power stations, one of which is now being decommissioned.

Once up and running, the two reactors will provide about 7 per cent of the UK's electricity. They will be built by a consortium led by EDF Energy and will be half-owned by China.

The reactors will be European pressurised reactors (EPRs), developed by French energy giant Areva. They are a variant on the pressurised water reactor, so named because the cooling water surrounding the reactor core is kept at high pressure to prevent it from boiling (see diagram). The design features crucial advances.

It generates more electricity from less fuel and needs less downtime for maintenance. It also cuts the risk of major accidents.

The reactor building will be more resistant to aircraft strikes. Before 9/11, reactors were only built to survive the impact of a crashing fighter jet.

Modern aircraft can have engines as big as buses, which could punch through concrete. So the Hinkley reactors will have two concrete walls, each more than 1 metre thick.

Also lessons have also been learned from the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

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