SPOTLIGHT: U.S. Nuclear Safety is as Nuclear Safety Does


Multiple strengthening grids integral to EPR reactor construction.

Being defined by one’s actions instead of just words can be a daunting reality, but modern nuclear reactor facilities and designs unabashedly confirm the U.S. nuclear industry’s commitment and culture focused on safety.

This commitment created an astounding statistic: From the day President Eisenhower commissioned the first reactor to the present day, the ongoing commercial operations of U.S. nuclear reactors have caused zero (0) deaths in the workforce and general public. And modern reactors are designed to maintain that safety commitment with advanced technology and techniques.

For example, AREVA’s 1,600+ megawatt U.S. EPR™ reactor design completing review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) represents additional advancements in secure, robust construction and multi-layer preventive and reactive safety systems. Here are the details divided out by the numbers …

As a starting point, nuclear reactor safety requires that three basic functions be met at all times:

  1. Full control of the nuclear chain reaction
  2. Permanent cooling of the fuel
  3. Containment of radioactive elements

AREVA’s reactor designs achieve these safety requirements by adhering to two principles:

  1. Seal the nuclear processes within multiple protective barriers, and
  2. “Defense in Depth” protective measures.

To fulfill the first principle, AREVA’s U.S. EPR™ reactor design inserts a series of strong, physical barriers between the radioactive materials and the environment:

  1. The nuclear fuel resides within metal cladding immersed in water within the core.
  2. A durable, pressurized metal envelope surrounds the reactor vessel housing the core and the reactor coolant systems.
  3. A thick-walled, double-shell concrete containment building with a robust foundation designed to withstand significant earthquakes backs up the metal envelope.

The second principle, “Defense in Depth,” sustains the effectiveness of the physical barriers. AREVA’s U.S. EPR™ reactor fulfills this principle by proactively layering in comprehensive defensive features:

  1. Facility integrity – Combination of safety-focused design, high-quality construction, and reliable operational processes, all honed from experience gained as the global market leader in nuclear facility development.
  2. Constant system surveillance – Digital instrumentation and control (I&C) systems detect any anomalies that could lead to a departure from normal operating conditions
  3. Responsive systems and processes – Designed to mitigate consequences in the event a situation occurs, these responses include multiple redundant active and passive safety systems that automatically bring the reactor to a stable shutdown state.

The U.S. nuclear industry’s intentional approach implementing modern designs like AREVA’s U.S. EPR™ reactor will help ensure nuclear energy continues safely generating substantial, reliable, low-carbon power.

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