The USA has the Very High Temperature Gen IV reactor candidate, which could have deep burn [65% of the nuclear material would be used instead of about 1% for current reactors] and temperatures up to 1000 degrees. High temperatures is efficient for providing heat for many industrial applications.
The difference between the US and China is that China will is making a high temperature reactor that they are certain that they can make now. They have a made a 10 Megawatt test reactor and start building the full scale 200 MW modular reactor starting this year (2009). They will build many copies of a conservative design. Then they will upgrade components as they build more. So China plans to get to more advanced reactors by improving the 10th-20th copies or the 21-40th copies. By the time 2025-2035 rolls around and the US may have built its first very high temperature reactor China will have upgraded their high temperature designs several times for their 300-500th factory mass produced 200MW reactors to comparable designs that have the advantage of similar early versions being in use. China will learn by building good and getting better by making more.
On Nov 5, 2008, Toyo Tanso Co., Ltd and Sumitomo Corporation received an order for graphite which is a major component for a Chinese High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor project (HTR-PM). It is a Chinese national project and a next generation nuclear power plant construction project (HTR-PM).
Toyo Tanso and Sumitomo received the order of Toyo Tanso high purified isotropic graphite IG-110, and the order amount is several tens million dollars and over one thousands tons of graphite blocks. The delivery will be made from the middle of year 2010 till the end of year 2011
China Huaneng Group, one of China’s major generators, is the lead organization in the consortium with China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Group (CNEC) and Tsinghua University’s INET, which is the R&D leader. Chinergy (a 50-50 joint venture of INET and CNEC) is the main contractor for the nuclear island. Projected cost is US$ 430 million, with the aim for later units being US$ 1500/kWe.
The HTR-PM will pave the way for 18 (3×6) further 200 MWe units at the same site in Weihai city – total 3800 MWe – also with steam cycle. INET is in charge of R&D, and is aiming to increase the size of the 250 MWt module and also utilise thorium in the fuel. Eventually a series of HTRs, possibly with Brayton cycle directly driving the gas turbines, will be factory-built and widely installed throughout China.
High temperature reactors can be adapted to use thorium for fuel and the plan is for factory mass produced reactors. Two year construction times and mass production driving costs down to less than half the cost of the first units. China sees these as supplemental reactors to the big reactors. They will be used in smaller cities and towns and by factories for generating industrial heat. Also, they are looking to use heat for hydrogen generation, desalination and coal liquification (at least that would be cleaner than straight coal burning).
China is where the bulk of the world’s industrial and manufacturing facilities are going. They will be driving the large scale plan for getting more nuclear power in place of coal. And they will keep building coal plants until they can make the shift.
The Chinese high temperature nuclear reactor is more suited to replace coal for industrial heating. 200 MW reactor modules that will be factory mass produced. The project received environmental clearance in March 2008 for construction start in 2009 and commissioning by 2013. Initially the existing HTR-10 had been coupled to a steam turbine power generation unit, but second phase plans are for it to operate at 950°C and drive a gas turbine, as well as enabling R&D in heat application technologies. This phase will involve an international partnership with Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI), focused particularly on hydrogen production.
Do environmentalists see some flaw in the Chinese plans ? They are always expecting the United States not to follow through on making the 26 nuclear reactors which have had construction licenses filed with the NRC.
Is there going to be a licensing issue ? Will the leadership of China lack the will to carry through ? Will there be protests from the people who would prefer to keep using coal power ? What is the uncertainty that this will happen ?
Not one or two year delays but that by 2025-2030 we will be talking reactors of this type in the dozens if not over one hundred ?
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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