Integral pressurized-water reactors (iPWRs) for producing nuclear energy: a new paradigm

M. D. Carelli

Formerly of Westinghouse Electric Co.,Pittsburgh, PA, USA

3.1 Introduction

Over 60 years ago nuclear power has been ushered into mankind, representing a quantum change which rivals and potentially surpasses those of the combustion engine and electricity. It has advantages and disadvantages, proponents and detractors, just like any other human endeavor. The underlying puzzle is why other innovations have successfully overcome — in a reasonably short time — the inevitable initial distrust, setbacks and potentially suffocating legislation, while nuclear power has not yet flourished.

True, nuclear weapons are not exactly the best introduction to nuclear energy, but that potential connection was overcome in the span of a decade; the advanced world economies accepted nuclear power, development plans were outlined and implemented with a variety of prototypes followed by a variety of progressively improving designs. So, the first couple of decades were not that different for nuclear power than they were for previous endeavors, except that nuclear power progressed at a more sedate pace, as would be expected because of the much higher financial exposure, and of course the drastically different consequences of potential accidents. However, at that time (mid-1970s), instead of becoming a staple of human development, nuclear power became a more and more controversial issue, crowned by the 1979 Three Mile Island accident. Since then it has moved in fits and starts, characterized, on one side, by the need for economical and reliable power and, on the other, by three major accidents, plus a variety of minor or nuisance-type, but highly publicized, ones and a substratum of polarized politics. This resulted in divided public opinion, showing roughly one-third firmly pro, one-third firmly con and the remaining one-third going back and forth depending on the latest happenings.

Consequently, for the past 40 years nuclear power, while it has expanded overall, has been unable to fulfil its potential, nor to maintain its promises; it will remain so for the foreseeable future, unless it goes through a drastic change from its current modus operandi. If properly planned and executed, the catalyst for this change could be the deployment of SMRs, starting immediately with the integral PWR designs (iPWRs), whose technology and characteristics are examined in detail in Part II of this Handbook.

Handbook of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors. http://dx. doi. Org/10.1533/9780857098535.1.61

Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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