Before getting into new designs, take a look at today's reactor designs, which date from the 1960s. The nuclear fuel, often uranium oxide, is packaged as long, thin rods. Dozens of rods are fitted into an assembly at the center of the reactor. Water is circulated through the reactor to capture the heat and make steam. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently approved the Westinghouse AP1000 design, which stores cooling water above the reactor in the case of an accident. Using gravity and convection, the plant's core can continue being cooled for three days in the case of a loss of power.
March 10, 2012 4:00 AM PST
Photo by: Nuclear Energy Institute
| Caption by: Martin LaMonica
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