China Technology: Supercomputers and Breeder Nuclear Reactor

1. China’s first supercomputer with a computing speed of over 100 trillion times per second, the Dawning 5000A, also called the “Magic Cube,” will officially be installed in the Shanghai Supercomputer Center in mid-May, according to the Dawning Information Industry Company.

The Dawning 5000A, which is to be installed in Shanghai, will have three important missions— the national grid, Shanghai’s basic scientific research platform, and information services for the eastern China region, said Li Jun, President of the Dawning Information Industry Company. It will provide massive information processing, information development services, and high-performance computing services for the purpose of scientific research in all sectors of eastern China.

2. The installation and adjustment of main equipment for the China Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) has been completed.

The sodium-cooled, pool-type fast reactor is being constructed with some Russian assistance at the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIEA), near Beijing, which undertakes fundamental research on nuclear science and technology.

Fuel produced by Russia’s TVEL will be loaded into the reactor July/August and it is scheduled to be commissioned by the end of 2009.

The thermal power of the CEFR is 65 MW, matched with a 25 MWe turbine generator.

A 600 MWe prototype fast reactor is envisaged by 2020 and there are outline plans for a 1500 MWe version by 2030. In October 2008, the Russian-Chinese Nuclear Cooperation Commission called for construction of an 800 MWe demonstration fast reactor similar to Beloyarsk 4, currently the world’s only commercial fast breeder reactor.

Unlike most of the reactors used today for nuclear power generation, fast neutron reactors (FNRs) make maximum use of uranium resources by generating a certain amount more fuel than they consume. They do this by using fast neutrons to ‘burn up’ uranium and plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, which can be surrounded a uranium ‘blanket’ in which slightly more plutonium is created than is used. The MOX fuel uses the plutonium recovered when spent fuel, including that from conventional light water reactors, is reprocessed.