Production of 300,000 fuel pebbles per year will start in August as China prepare factory mass produced nuclear reactors

Qualification irradiation tests of fuel elements for the demonstration HTR-PM high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) plant being built at Shidaowan, China, have been completed in the Netherlands.

China’s Institute for Nuclear and New Energy Technology (INET) at Tsinghua University has conducted research on HTGR fuel element technology over the past 30 years. It developed a trial production line with an annual capacity of 100,000 spherical fuel elements. However, INET requires qualification of its fuel to support licensing of the HTR-PM reactor systems.

The construction of a pilot production line for fuel elements for the Shidaowan HTR-PM is nearing completion in Baotou, Inner Mongolia. The production line will have an annual capacity of 300,000 fuel elements. It is expected to be commissioned in August.

The demonstration HTR-PM plant being constructed at Shidaowan, near Weihai city in Shandong province, will initially comprise twin HTR-PM reactor modules driving a single 210 MWe steam turbine. Construction started in late 2012, with commercial operation scheduled in 2017. A further 18 such HTR-PM units are proposed at Shidaowan. These will be modular factory mass produced nuclear reactor units.

China is planning factory mass production and further technology refinement for later versions.

Future of HTR Development

Commercialization:
* Duplication, mass production

Next project steps:
* Super critical steam turbine, co-generation

R and D on future technologies:
* Higher temperature,
* Hydrogen Production,
* Process heat application,
* Gas turbine

Fuel Fabrication

Technology of 5g U/fuel to 7g U/fuel has been demonstrated.
* INET demo production facility has been finished,
* Manufacturing of irradiated fuels, finished.
* Fuel irradiation tests are underway.
* Engineering and licensing of a new pebble bed fuel plant is finished, construction soon starts.

There have been detailed cost estimates made of the chinese pebble bed reactor compared to the low costs (half or less of the western cost) for pressurized water reactors (PWR – current standard reactors).

Estimates show that the capital costs of an Nth-of-akind HTR-PM plant with multiple NSSS modules should be in the range of 90–120% of the costs of a PWR. Further reductions are expected to be possible.

China is pretty sure that they can get the HTR-PM in the range of the price of their PWR and they will produce heat (higher temperature than PWR) that allows the HTR-PM to be a drop in replacement for coal plants. The HTR-PM would also be able to compete for smaller projects in the 210 to 420 MWe range.

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