Pressurized-water reactor (PWR)

A common nuclear power reactor design in which very pure water is heated to a very high temperature by fission, kept under high pressure (to prevent it from boiling), and converted to steam by a steam generator (rather than by boiling, as in a boiling-water reactor). The resulting steam is used to drive turbines, which activate generators to produce electrical power. A pressurized-water reactor (PWR) essentially operates like a pressure cooker, where a lid is tightly placed over a pot of heated water, causing the pressure inside to increase as the temperature increases (because the steam cannot escape) but keeping the water from boiling at the usual 212°F (100°C). About two-thirds of the operating nuclear reactor power plants in the United States are PWRs. For additional detail, see Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs).

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Tuesday, March 09, 2021