7 Jan (NucNet): China has broken ground on a three billion-yuan (about 476 million US dollars, 364 million euro) demonstration high-temperature pebble bed modular nuclear reactor (HTR-PM) project, which will form part of what could become China’s largest nuclear facility, state media confirmed yesterday.
The 200-megawatt Generation-IV Shidaowan nuclear reactor, near the coastal city of Rongcheng in east China's Shandong Province, will be part of the Rongcheng Nuclear Power Industrial Park project, which could – if approved by regulators – eventually be the site of a further 18 units of the same type as well as four CPR-1000 pressurised water reactor units.
Construction of the Shidaowan HTR-PM started last month and first concrete has been poured for the nuclear island, according to Huaneng Shandong Shidao Bay Nuclear Power Company Ltd. (HSNPC), the builder and operator of the unit.
The design has “broad prospects for commercial application” and can “meet the needs of different countries and regions”, the company said. Construction is scheduled to take 50 months, with 18 months for building, 18 months for installation and 14 months for pre‐commissioning.
The gas-cooled HTR-PM, which has twin reactor modules of 100 MW each driving a single 200-MW steam turbine, will start generating commercial electricity by the end of 2017, HSNPC said in a statement.
The reactor, which was developed by the Institute Of Nuclear And New Energy Technology (INET) at Tsinghua University in Beijing, has passive safety features, meaning it can shut down safely in the event of an emergency without causing core meltdown or significant leakage of radioactive material, according to HSNCP.
INET said the reactor can be widely used in power generation, cogeneration and high-temperature process heat applications. It can be used for oil refining, heavy oil recovery and in the chemical industry.
An experimental 10-MW HTR-PM at INET went critical in 2000 and was connected to the grid in 2003.
The HTR-PM’s fuel is in the form of graphite balls containing uranium enriched to 8.9 percent uranium-235. Instead of cooling water, the core is bathed in inert helium gas with an outlet temperature of up to 750 °C.
The investors in the project are the China Huaneng Group, the China Nuclear Engineering Group Company and Tsinghua University.
Originally scheduled to be started in 2011, construction of the HTR-PM was postponed after the March 2011 accident at Fukushima-Daiichi in Japan.
China suspended the approval of new nuclear plants and carried out a nationwide safety review after the crisis. The government resumed nuclear project approvals in October 2012.
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, China has 16 nuclear reactors in commercial operation and 16 under construction, not including the Shidaowan HTR-PM.