For a world that was on the brink of a major expansion in nuclear power, a key question raised by the Fukushima Daiichi crisis is this: Would brand-new reactors have fared better in the power outage that triggered dangerous overheating at one of Japan’s oldest power plants?
The answer seems to be: Not necessarily.
The nuclear industry has developed reactors that rely on so-called “passive safety” systems that could address the turn of events that occurred in Japan—the loss of power to pump water crucial to cooling radioactive fuel and spent fuel. But these designs are being deployed in only four of the 65 plants under construction worldwide.
[…] The vast majority of plants under construction around the world, 47 in all, are considered Generation II reactor designs—the same 1970s vintage as Fukushima Daiichi, and without integrated passive safety systems.