Shidaowan reactor becomes critical; safe energy further

A worker does a soldering job at a factory in Qinhuangdao, Hebei Province, which makes equipment for the HTGR reactor plant in Shidaowan, Shandong Province. [Photo/Xinhua]

The No. 1 reactor of the Shidaowan Nuclear Power Plant in Shandong Province, the world’s first large-scale demonstration plant of a relatively safe gas-cooled high-temperature reactor with a pebble bed module, reached critical success on Sunday, said China Huaneng Group Co Ltd, its operator.

The reactor was entirely developed by China with independent intellectual property rights.

Fuel loading was completed on August 21, bringing it one step closer to on-grid power generation within this year, Huaneng Group said.

Gas-cooled high-temperature reactors, known around the world as the fourth generation of nuclear power systems, are said to have broad development prospects due to their inherent safety, versatility and modular design.

“The high-temperature gas-cooled reactors can be safer because they don’t require water for cooling and the unit’s melting point exceeds the upper limit of the reactor’s temperature range,” said Wei Hanyang, an electricity market analyst at Bloomberg New Energy.

“Working without containment also means that the construction of the gas-cooled high-temperature reactors can be used more cheaply and possibly in more countries and locations.”

Wei said he believes China’s total nuclear power plants could reach 100 gigawatts by the end of 2030, given the rising demand for electricity in the coastal regions.

As China promotes greener development and prioritises safety and security in the construction of nuclear power plants, it has also committed to achieving the highest levels of CO2 emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060. Energy industry insiders are optimistic about the Prospects for the environmentally friendly energy resource in China in the next few years concerns a couple of years.

Joseph Jacobelli, independent energy analyst and executive vice president of Asia business at Cenfura Ltd, a smart energy services company, said earlier that recent developments confirm China’s continued commitment to further strengthen the country’s nuclear power sector.

“China’s need for clean energy means that nuclear power generation is definitely an important place in the long-term energy mix, and the cost control skills and technological advancement of Chinese companies are likely to continue to benefit domestic businesses,” he said.

Construction of the Shidaowan nuclear power plant began in 2012. The project successfully completed the cold and hot tests of twin reactors in March of this year. In August it received approval from the National Nuclear Safety Administration to begin operations.

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