The China Academy of Sciences in January 2011 launched a program of R&D on thorium-breeding molten-salt reactors (Th-MSR or TMSR), otherwise known as Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR), claiming to have the world’s largest national effort on these and hoping to obtain full intellectual property rights on the technology. A 5 MWe MSR is apparently under construction at Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (under the Academy) with 2015 target operation.
Also Traveling Wave reactor work
CGNPC and Xiamen University are reported to be cooperating on R&D for the traveling-wave reactor. The Ministry of Science & Technology, with CNNC and SNPTC, are skeptical of it. (This is a fast reactor design using natural or depleted uranium packed inside hundreds of hexagonal pillars. In a “wave” that moves through the core at only one centimetre per year, the U-238 is bred progressively into Pu-239, which is the actual fuel. However, this design has now radically changed.)
High Temperature Pebble Bed Reactor
A key R&D project is the demonstration Shidaowan HTR-PM of 210 MWe (two reactor modules, each of 250 MWt) which is being built at Shidaowan in Shandong province, driving a single steam turbine at about 40% thermal efficiency. The size was reduced to 250 MWt from earlier 458 MWt modules in order to retain the same core configuration as the prototype HTR-10 and avoid moving to an annular design like South Africa’s PBMR.
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 Co. 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 licensing process is under way with NNSA, the EPC contract was let in October 2008 and construction was due to start in September 2009 with completion expected in 2013.
The HTR-PM will pave the way for 18 (3×6) further 210 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 it is intended that a series of HTRs, possibly with Brayton cycle directly driving the gas turbines, will be factory-built and widely installed throughout China.
Fast neutron reactors
China’s R&D on fast neutron reactors started in 1964. A 65 MWt sodium-cooled fast neutron reactor – the Chinese Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) – at the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE) near Beijing, started up in July 2010.1 It was built by Russia’s OKBM Afrikantov in collaboration with OKB Gidropress, NIKIET and Kurchatov Institute. It was grid connected at 40% power (8 MWe net) in July 2011, and will ramp up to full 20 MWe power in December. It has negative temperature, power reactivity and sodium void coefficients. Its fuel cycle is designed to use electrometallurgical reprocessing.
The CDFR-1000, a 1000 MWe Chinese prototype fast reactor based on the CEFR, is envisaged with construction start in 2017 and commissioning 2023 as the next step in CIAE’s program. This is CIAE’s ‘project one’ Chinese Demonstration Fast Reactor (CDFR). With a 40-year design lifetime, it will be a three-loop 2500 MWt pool type, with active and passive shutdown systems and passive decay heat removal. The reactor would use MOX fuel with average 66 GWd/t burn-up, run at 544°C, have breeding ratio 1.2, with 316 core fuel assemblies and 255 blanket ones. This could form the basis of the Chinese Commercial Fast Reactor (CCFR) by 2030, using MOX + actinide or metal + actinide fuel. MOX is seen only as an interim fuel, the target arrangement is metal fuel in closed cycle.
In October 2009, an agreement was signed by CIAE and CNEIC with Russia’s Atomstroyexport to start pre-project and design works for a commercial nuclear power plant with two BN-800 reactorsc (see section on Sanming in the information page on Nuclear Power in China). These reactors are referred to by CIAE as ‘project 2’ Chinese Demonstration Fast Reactors (CDFRs), with construction to start in 2013 and commissioning 2018-19. The reactors will use ceramic MOX fuel pellets.
The CIAE’s CDFR-1000 is expected to be followed by a 1200 MWe China Demonstration Fast Breeder Reactor (CDFBR) by about 2028, conforming to Generation IV criteria. This will have U-Pu-Zr fuel with 120 GWd/t burn-up and breeding ratio of 1.5 or more, with minor actinide and long-lived fission product recycle.
PWR capacity in China is expected to level off at 200 GWe about 2040, and fast reactors progressively increase from 2020 to at least 200 GWe by 2050 and 1400 GWe by 2100.