The optimism surrounding nuclear power that existed in the 1960s, 70s, and into the 80s was quickly replaced with scepticism and distrust after a number of serious and very high-profile nuclear incidents. With the latest incident being the 2011 tsunami which crippled several reactors in Japan and led to the catastrophic failure of containment and the release of radioactive materials, development of nuclear technology has again slowed to a crawl.
However, there is still development and there are still new nuclear projects forging ahead as the existing fleet ages and replacements become increasingly urgent. Though the disasters have left their scars, they have also brought about a new awareness for safety and lessons learned can be applied in new as well as existing plant construction.
One of the latest nuclear power plants nearing completion does away with the notion that the plant must be on land entirely. Nuclear reactors have been used on ships since early in the technology’s life, though mainly to produce power for the ships. And while there have been some plants located on ships to produce power to be used on-shore, Rosatom’s designs for ship-based nuclear power plants are the first that are set to be mass-produced.
Elsewhere, European countries Finland and France are putting the newly designed Evolutionary Power Reactor design to use in new-build nuclear power plants at Olkiluoto and Flamanville. First marketed as the European Pressurised Reactor, the EPR is also being deployed in China where it is likely to see the design’s commissioning debut after significant delays in Finland and France.
Elsewhere in Europe, Slovakia was left with a shortfall in power after joining the EU and the forced closure of two soviet-era reactors which failed to meet EU safety standards. To continue to help provide power to the grid, Slovakia is also expanding its nuclear fleet with the addition of a third and forth Russian-designed reactors to be deployed at the Mochovce plant site, the first of which will come online in 2018.
While the nuclear power-plant boom has turned into a trickle, there is still plenty of opportunity for development and there are many new plants coming online around the world for many years to come.