Nuclear technologies improve and evolve from one generation to the next. Generation IV nuclear reactor systems are theoretical reactor designs currently on the drawing board.

Nuclear reactor designs

Generation IV reactors are intended to have better fuel efficiency, use recycled uranium, thorium or plutonium fuels, operate at very high burn up to reduce radioactive spent fuel waste, and be intrinsically safer and proliferation-resistant to avoid nuclear weapons production.

The design of nuclear reactors has evolved in five major steps since the first experimental demonstration reactor was constructed at the University of Chicago in December 1942. It took just 14 years to commercialise nuclear technology, scaling-up from university experiment to full-scale power generation. Britain was an early adopter of nuclear power recognizing its special potential as an energy resource.

Her Majesty The Queen opened Calder Hall in Cumbria, the world's first civil nuclear power station in October 1956. The United States followed, opening its first nuclear power station at Shippingport, Pennsylvania in December 1957. Britain's early Magnox nuclear power stations were Generation I reactor designs built in the 1950s - 1960s. Britain's AGR reactors are Generation II designs built in the 1970s - 1980s. Generation III reactor designs such as Britain's Sizewell-B PWR, were built during the 1990s and 2000s.

The most advanced Generation III+ reactor designs presently under construction in Western Europe and China will soon begin operating in the 2010s and 2020s. Generation IV is the next generation of nuclear reactor designs that are planned to be built in the 2030s.


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