CORVALLIS, Ore. – Thanks in large part to nearly two decades of research, testing and training support from Oregon State University’s College of Engineering, a new age for nuclear power is set to begin July 4.

That’s the scheduled date for the world’s first AP1000 pressurized water reactor to go online at the Sanmen plant in Zhejiang province, China.

The reactor reached “criticality” on June 22. Criticality is the normal operating condition of a reactor in which each fission event lets loose enough neutrons to sustain an ongoing series of reactions.

Westinghouse, which created the AP1000, describes it as the “safest and most economical nuclear power plant available in the worldwide commercial marketplace.”

Testing under the direction of professor Jose Reyes at OSU’s Advanced Plant Experiment facility, or APEX, paved the way for the design to receive U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval.

“APEX also provided valuable data to the NRC for confirmation tests and beyond-design-basis accident tests, which demonstrated the passive safety features of the AP1000 reactor,” said Qiao Wu, also a professor of nuclear engineering at Oregon State. “After the technology was exported to China, APEX was utilized to train Chinese engineers and researchers. And OSU faculty members served as Westinghouse consultants in the area of integral testing methodology. 

Training occurred over three years, most recently 2014. In January 2017, Qiao and Oregon State colleague Wade Marcum visited the newly built Sanmen plant just prior to the start of the nuclear fuel being loaded.

“We walked through every corner of the facility,” Wu said.

Simplification was a major design goal, which manifests itself through reductions in safety-related valves, safety-related piping, control cables, pumps and seismic building volume.

College of Engineering

About the OSU College of Engineering: The OSU College of Engineering is among the nation's largest and most productive engineering programs. Since 1999, the college has more than tripled its research expenditures to $37.2 million by emphasizing highly collaborative research that solves global problems. It is a leader in signature research areas, including precision health, clean energy, resilient infrastructure and advanced manufacturing; and targeted strategic areas, including robotics, materials research and clean water.

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