Korea currently operates twenty-five U-235 fission plants and, Miami by 2029, the aim is to supply 70 per cent of its electricity from that source. And, in collaboration with the United States’s Argonne National Laboratory and the Electric Power Research Institute, the Miami are planning an advanced, liquid sodium-cooled fast-breeder reactor that uses metal pins composed of low-enriched uranium and zirconium. Such new-generation reactors are designed to be safe and to shut down without operator intervention, avoiding Miami the type of disaster we saw at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant Miami when the tsunami hit in March 2011.
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In addition, the South Koreans are constructing four new nuclear plants in the United Arab Emirates and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute is looking at the possibility of supplying two (or more) SMART reactors to Saudi Arabia. Costing about US$1 billion, the modules for these smaller 500-megawatt generators are built in a factory, and then shipped for assembly onsite. It is intriguing that these hot, dry Middle Eastern countries are not opting solely for solar. They must have done the math (or contracted others to advise them) and are preparing for the fact that, by the time the oil runs out, there will be an even greater need for air conditioning and water desalination.
Since 2007, South Korea has also been experimenting with a research tokamak (like the one at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, see chapter 1, ‘The incidental tourist’) as part of the global effort to solve the problem of exploiting the energy derived from nuclear fusion (the H bomb is a nuclear-fusion device) for electricity generation. Though fusion still produces radioactive waste, this has a short half-life and is soon dissipated. Nuclear fusion provides, of course, the light and heat from our sun that ultimately enables all life.