Sport Aircraft Company Shows Concept Electric Motor in Waiex Airframe
Researchers Find MEG Effect in Silicon Nanocrystals; May Improve Efficiency of Silicon Solar Cells

Westinghouse to Provide Four AP1000 Nuclear Power Plants in China; Buys Pebble Bed Modular Reactor Company

Cutaway view of the AP1000. Click to enlarge.

Westinghouse Electric Company LLC and its consortium partner, The Shaw Group, Inc., signed four landmark, multi-billion-dollar contracts to provide four AP1000 nuclear power plants in China.

The contracts are with State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation Ltd. (SNPTC); Sanmen Nuclear Power Company Ltd; Shandong Nuclear Power Company Ltd.; and China National Technical Import & Export Corporation (CNTIC).

This will represent the furst-ever deployment of advanced US nuclear technology in China, according to Westinghouse President and CEO Steve Tritch.

The comprehensive agreements follow by five months the signing of framework agreements that confirmed the basic requirements and obligations of all parties involved. As a result of those earlier agreements, preliminary design, engineering and long-lead procurement work is already underway.

SNPTC announced in December, 2006 that it had selected the Westinghouse consortium and the AP1000 technology. Original bids for the four plants were submitted by Westinghouse and others competing for the project, in February, 2005.

The four plants are to be constructed in pairs at the Sanmen and Haiyang sites. Construction is expected to begin in 2009, with the first plant becoming operational in late 2013. The remaining three plants are expected to come on line in 2014 and 2015.

The AP1000 is a 1,117 to 1,154 MWe pressurized water reactor (PWR) nuclear power plant that is an extension of the older AP600 design. (It is considered a Generation III Advanced Light Water Reactor.) (Earlier post.)

It is modular in design, thereby promoting ready standardization and high construction quality; economical to construct and maintain (less concrete and steel and fewer components and systems mean there is less to install, inspect and maintain); and designed to promote ease of operation (features most advanced instrumentation and control in the industry).

Once the acquisition is complete, likely in August, ISTN will operate under the name Westinghouse Electric South Africa (Pty) Ltd.

The day prior to the announcement of the China contracts, Westinghouse signed an agreement to purchase IST Nuclear (ISTN), a leading provider of services and systems for South Africa’s Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR).

Pebble bed modular reactor unit.

The PBMR is a high-temperature, gas-cooled type reactor. Each fuel “pebble” of uranium dioxide is encapsulated by four coating layers of silicon carbide and pyrolitic carbon, providing containment for fission production stable to 1,600°C or more. These reactors use helium as a coolant, which at up to 950°C drives a gas turbine for power generation and a compressor to return gas to the core. Production reactor units will be 165 MWe.

The PBMR is being designed to have a direct-cycle gas turbine generator and thermal efficiency of about 42%. Up to 450,000 fuel pebbles recycle through the reactor continuously (about six times each) until they are expended, giving an average enrichment in the fuel load of 4-5% and average burn-up of 90 GWday/t U (eventual target burn-ups are 200 GWd/t).

Performance includes great flexibility in loads (40-100%), with rapid change in power settings. Power density in the core is about one tenth of that in light water reactor, and if coolant circulation ceases the fuel will survive initial high temperatures while the reactor shuts itself down. Each unit will finally discharge about 19 tonnes/yr of spent pebbles to ventilated on-site storage bins.

Westinghouse has long been a proponent of the PBMR, and this acquisition will allow us to become even more involved as PBMR moves toward commercialization. Equally important, we intend to expand ISTN's scope to include working with Westinghouse in servicing existing light water reactors in South Africa and elsewhere.

—Nick Liparulo, Vice President of Engineering Services for Westinghouse

ISTN, formerly part of IST Holdings, was instrumental in the early development of the PBMR, working with the South African utility Eskom and US-based investors, including Westinghouse. Most recently, ISTN supplied the helium test facility for the PBMR. The company is also under contract to design key systems for a PBMR demonstration unit to be built at the Koeberg site by 2011.

Westinghouse also considers South Africa to be a promising market for the AP1000. As a result, ISTN will become an important hub for both the PBMR and PWR businesses.

Today, Westinghouse technology is the basis for approximately one-half of the world’s operating nuclear plants, including 60% of those in the United States.

Westinghouse is now a group company of Toshiba Corporation, and is the world’s pioneering nuclear power company and a leading supplier of nuclear plant products and technologies to utilities throughout the world. Westinghouse, with Shaw, supplied the world’s first PWR in 1957 in Shippingport, Pa.

Separately, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) announced that it plans to triple the size of its nuclear power business over the next 10 years, seeking ¥600 billion (US$5 billion) a year in sales.

MHI estimates that growing worldwide demand for nuclear power will drive growth for the company, and estimates that orders will come in at a stable pace of two reactors a year.

Mitsubishi Heavy won a large order from US nuclear power plant operator TXU in March for its advanced 1.7 million kW pressurized-water reactors. Mitsubishi Heavy also plans to develop 1.1 million kW reactors with French nuclear engineering company Areva, aiming to launch sales in Europe and the US in 2010.

In China, Mitsubishi Heavy plans to exploit the market through a joint venture, seeking to conclude a tie-up with a local firm within a year.




A Japanese company buys a US company buys a South African company. They say 'follow the money'. If pebble bed reactors have the flexibility to operate anywhere between 66 and 165 MW they could maybe help smooth out fluctuating power sources and contribute to distributed generation.

I think we're still in for a decade of denial about the problems of other energy sources. After some hard energy deprivation and a surge in plug-in vehicles I think nuclear will make a comeback.


As an engineer with years of experience in the nuclear field, I can honestly say that on the surface, there is a huge potential for nuclear power to dramatically reduce carbon emissions. Nuclear power plants have the wonderful capability of changing power output very quickly based on energy demands. This feature makes nuclear power an excellent complement to Wind Power which due to the random nature of wind speed, cannot be used as the sole source of electric energy. In other words, if you need 1 GW of electric power, then have a 1 GWe nuclear reactor complement 278 3.6 MW wind turbines (made by GE). That way, the nuclear reactor can produce the difference between the turbine rated power and actual power. This would cut down the Uranium use and therefore the radioactive waste.
Now let's talk about the downside of nuclear power:
If we adopt nuclear power as the main energy platform to reduce carbon emissions, what we are really saying is that there is no other viable solution to reduce carbon emmissions. Since carbon emmission reduction is EVERY country's responsibility and nuclear power is the "most effective and cheapest" way to accomplish this monumental task, then it is not unreasonable to expect EVERY country to have access to safe nuclear technology. Here is where things get complicated: We don't want some countries to have access to this technologies because the potential use of nuclear fuel to make nuclear weapons. We can argue that countries such as Iran can use fossil fuels to generate all the electricity they need but what about their carbon emmissions? Applying a double standard to countries like Iran will only "add fuel to the fire" and any benefit that nuclear power can bring to the table will be dwarfed by the amount of resources we will have to waste to try to keep terrorist countries from getting access to nuclear technology. We must find another way to complement wind power so that we can share the new technology with every country (even if they are not friendly). Perhaps making hydrogen with excess wind power, geothermal, etc, and then using an efficient fuel cell/ICE to produce electricity during high demand.


I was hoping they were actually selling pebble bed reactors, not older water reactors.


If terrorist states were forced to used thorium and subcritical reactors, they could still have nuclear power without the nuclear weapons potential. Of course someone need to make a production subcrtical and/or thorium cycle reactor first.


At least they are not Coal plants.
Anyone who has been following the Energy crisis the world is facing knows that we are going to need Nuclear power. Generation IV reactor should be put as a priority in the energy mix. Russia, China, India and the US. That is the major source of CO2 at the moment and these countries are already nuclear so why wait.
I live in Massachusetts and I can't wait for Cape Wind but look at the obstacles we are facing. Not in my back yard crap. We do need both forms of energy but we need to clear the way for these types of energy.
I am getting tired of emailing everybody about this stuff but I keep on doing it.
Hope you all are doing the same.

richard schumacher

Woo-hoo! When we're building nuclear plants at about 20 times this rate we'll be making a dent in global warming.

Paul Dietz

If terrorist states were forced to used thorium and subcritical reactors, they could still have nuclear power without the nuclear weapons potential.

In what way is the potential any less than if they just used LWRs with low enrichment fuel? Subcritical reactors will still produce materials that, if reprocessed, could be used in nuclear weapons.

On the other hand, the idea that if we decide to not use nuclear power, then terrorist-supporting countries won't (or won't develop nuclear weapons capability anyway) seems to be an example of magical thinking.


If you look at it, you have the same problem with wind as with PHevs - energy storage. There is lots of wind energy available, but it is not at all reliable.
Thus you either use a fuel like natural gas to compliment it, or find a way to store it.
The problem for electric power is the sheer scale of the energy you need to store. The problem for EVs is that the batteries must be light and robust.
But it is a $100 Bn problem to solve - anyone or organisazion who solve the problem of large scale energy storage will be the next Exxon.

Perhaps what we need is distributed energy storage - each house can store enough energy for 1 or 2 days use - then they can charge up during the night or whenever there is excess wind and perhaps put it back during peak load times - say you need 25 KWh on average - this is not beyond people with a cellar to load up on lead acid or newer batteries.
If you had this, you could just do wind and nukes with very little gas needed to balance the wind.


Or you could also just forget about wind. I for one don't want where I live covered in wind farms and the access roads that must go with them. On the other hand a nuclear complex somewhere you aren't going to even see unless you go and drive to it.

Wind was a good technology in the 1300's for mankind. To pump water and to grind grain. For 21st century energy needs its not a good idea.


Paul Dietz,

A sub-critical reactor using thorium won't produce any nuclear weapons viable fuel. Although U233 could be used in a nuclear weapon its never been tested and it also present many more problems then U235 and Pu239.

But I agree that that use not using nuclear power isn't going to encourage them not to either.



There plenty of great place to put windpower where it won't both people (or animals) off the coast at sea for example. And underwater turbines powered by tidal and/or water currents would produce power more continuously and regally then wind and be completely out of site (they also spin to slow to chop fish up)

Jeff R

Uh, do I really need to remind everyone that no one has solved the problem of radioactive waste? I know newer designs produce less waste, but it's unwise to continue this strange denial (for example, this article doesn't even mention the issue). Solve the waste problem, and then we can talk. We've had decades of difficulty, geological as well as political, siting the Yucca Mountain waste storage facility, the first one in the US. Also, we need to get the nuclear industry to pay up front for all this without subsidies -- like guarding the storage site for 100,000 years. Or are we saying we should just trade one catastrophic legacy for another?

build a giant slang shot, dump all the nuclear waste to the sun :)
Build tons of nuclear power plant, lots of wind turbine,
put more trees, (don't use solar power<- solar power and trees can't co-exist)

And build lots of utility scale flywheel energy storages. Large enough to statistically minimize the variance of wind energy power variation. With a minimized variance of power output fluctuation, less responsive power plant (like gas-fire?) maybe used instead of nuclear power plant.

Finally, bike more, walk more and take more public transportation.

Paul Dietz

Uh, do I really need to remind everyone that no one has solved the problem of radioactive waste?

Dry cask storage of spent fuel effectively solves it. The present value of the cost of guarding the casks indefinitely is quite tolerable, indeed lower than the cost of systems involving underground disposal or reprocessing.

Paul Dietz

A sub-critical reactor using thorium won't produce any nuclear weapons viable fuel. Although U233 could be used in a nuclear weapon its never been tested

You appear to contradict yourself there, unless you think that 'hasn't been tested' implies 'nonviable'. But by that criterion, accelerator-driven reactors aren't viable either.

Now, 233U is contaminated with 232U, at least in some fuel cycles, but this is a problem that can be dealt with. Moreover, 233U has the great advantage over Pu of being usable in gun-type bombs, due to the low spontaneous fission background. This would be very attractive for clandestine proliferators, since no tests would be required. The critical mass of 233U is also considerably lower than 235U.

Jeff R,

Radioactive waste is far easier to deal with then say millions of tons of CO2 emissions: We could store it in mountains or in deep seabeds for eons. We could also turn it into short term waste in subcritical reactors (and produce energy at the same time) and then store it for a few decades until it loses all of its radioactivity.

Kit P

It looks like the French are going to get a contract to build two 1600 MWe EPRs in China.

Stan Peterson

For you proponents of Wind power. It does work and can supplement needs. But...

Dr Assubel, the founder of the international GHG climate group that has evolved into the IPCC, pointed out recently that the wind power farm footprint to provide the electricity for New York City is as large as every square foot of the State of Connecticut.

Its just not concentrated enough to be effective.


hi Stan Peterson,

I agree the concentration is low for wind farm. (and no one likes to live in a wind storm though~)

That's why we need offshore wind farm where winds are more steady and maybe also able to co-exist with tidal power.

Another advantage of wind farm is that, it can be co-exist with farm lands. (We can put solar panel with farm lands together...)

Bill Young


I believe you corrected your self, both the current generation and the next generation of water cooled nuclear plants is not very good at load following. Once you have paid to build the plant the cost of operation is approximately constant (and very low), regardless of the power level. Light water reactor power is best for base load.

If you want to have an unpredictable intermittent generation source such as wind and not buffer with energy storage, you would best balance it with gas turbine or on demand hydro. Denmark has a high concentration of wind power but they also have almost unlimited Swedish hydroelectric available on demand.

The pebble bed reactor, either the South African one or the Adams Atomic Engine, is much more capable of load following because you can change power levels quickly. With these reactors you would still want to operate them at full power for economic reasons, however, if you can.

Kit P

Bill, the new French EPRs are designed to load follow in Europe. Many existing US plants were also built to load follow. I believe the economic variable is the amount of cheap coal a county has.


I really hope that pebble-bed reactors and their He-gas systems are paired with a technique like the SRNL Nuclear Hydrogen Production method (search GCG for the 2007-07-06 article).

My guess is that pairing off a PBR with the SRNL process would allow one to operate the reactor at load following conditions. E.g., the reactor operates slightly above-load and diverts excess heat not used in electric production into the Hydrogen Production process.

There is an MIT paper that says that at 10 bar and 1100 K (827 C) one can achieve about 70% efficiency in the Hydrogen Production process. For the PBR He-loop heat exchanger to Hydrogen Production the safety is mostly insured because the high-pressure high-temp He-loop operates at around 9 MPa (90 bar). Any potential leakage can go from the He-loop to the Hydrogen Production loop (safe) instead of Hydrogen Production loop to He-loop (unsafe).

Bll Young


The French do, as I understand, some load following with the N4 reactors but it is very inefficient. The reactor costs the same to operate regardless of the power level.

Fuel costs for a LWR are fixed. A refuel is scheduled and you swap out 50% or so of the fuel regardless of the burnup. If you had an extended outage during an operating cycle you might reschedule the refuel but you would not change the refuel if the reactor had spent some time at partial power.

Kit P

Bill, the core must be designed for load following. French reactors have about a 10% lower capacity factor than the US but still have cheaper electricity than much of the rest of the EU. It is a also a political choice not to be dependent on foreign oil and natural gas. Check out the country profiles at IAEA.


I think, humans will use all the fossil fuel aviable on this planet before switching to something else. This will generate a high standard of living on the one hand but ecological costs on the other. The problem is who we deal with the social costs of climated change.

Maybe, this will be easier and cheaper than storing nuclear waste for a unimaginable periode of time.
The problem her is mainly, the people that have to deal with the fast in a couple of 1000 years are yet not part of the political fight. We do not know yet wheather they like to live on a warmer planet without nuclear waste or prefer a some mili-Fahrenheit colder planet.

There is another thing. Imagine the Pyramides in Egypt were nuclear waste sides but noone remembered it than they opened these sides! Do you nuclear guys belive that our civilisation is able to get the information about nuclear waste sides through the centuries to come? That, when people "forget" to maintain these sides?

An one last thing. How much does it costs to store 1000lbs of nuclear waste for lets say 10.000years? How much e-energy get you out of 1000lbs nuclear fuel and for that price?

I guess, someone will hate us.

So, how about reducing engergy consumption through a more intelligent approach?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)