There are 104 nuclear reactors in the United States that provide 20 percent of America’s electric power, according The Hanford News. They were designed and built in the 1960s and ’70s, an era when seismologists knew much less about earthquakes than they do today.
Now that Japan’s 9.0 magnitude earthquake has focused world attention on the danger of nuclear power and radiation-tainted tap water, U.S. regulators and nuclear industry advocates are scrambling to convince the public that America’s reactors are safe.
Here’s a photographic tour of Seabrook, a nuclear power plant in New Hampshire.
In a nuclear power plant, pressurized steam is fed through a steam turbine which drives an electrical generator. After passing through the turbine the water-steam mixture is cooled down and condensed in a condenser. The condenser converts the steam to a liquid so that it can be pumped back into the steam generator.
The only commercial nuclear plant in the Northwest, the Columbia Generating Station at Hanford near Richland, Wash., is 225 miles from the 9.0 subduction zone along the coast. Of the five commercial reactors originally planned by WPPSS for the State of Washington, this reactor was the only one completed.
Hanford’s B Reactor was the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor. Built in about 13 months, it produced the plutonium for the world’s first nuclear explosion and for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. It continued to produce plutonium as one of Hanford’s nine production reactors during the Cold War.
The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station north of San Diego was built to withstand a 7.0 earthquake centered within five miles of the plant.
NuScale Power, a Corvallis-based startup, developing scalable nuclear reactor technology, is on the hunt for new financial backing after its primary investor’s assets were frozen as part of a federal U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission probe. The company now expects to lay off a majority of its remaining 70 worker.
Nathan Myhrvold, CEO of Intellectual Ventures, has invested in a nuclear-power reactor can burn depleted uranium as fuel. In a sweeping interview with The Wall Street Journal, he says no current technology offers a silver bullet solution to energy needs and global warming.