China building a 600 MWe fast neutron reactor which will become nuclear workhorse in the 2040s

Construction of China’s 600 MWe demonstration fast reactor at Xiapu, Fujian province, has officially begun with the pouring of the first concrete for the reactor’s basemat. The reactor is scheduled to begin commercial operation by 2023.

A 65 MWt fast neutron reactor – the Chinese Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) – near Beijing achieved criticality in July 2010, and was grid-connected a year later.

Based on this, a 600 MWe design – the CFR-600 – was developed by the China Institute of Atomic Energy. The Xiapu reactor will be a demonstration of that sodium-cooled pool-type fast reactor design. This will have an output of 1500 MW thermal power and 600 MW electric power. The reactor will use mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel with 100 GWd/t burnup, and will feature two coolant loops producing steam at 480°C. Later fuel will be metal with burnup of 100-120 GWd/t. The reactor will have active and passive shutdown systems and passive decay heat removal.

A commercial-scale unit – the CFR1000 – will have a capacity of 1000-1200 MWe. Subject to a 2020 decision to proceed, construction could start in December 2028, with operation from about 2034. That design will use metal fuel and 120-150 GWd/t burnup.

CFR-600 is flexible for two fuel types, UO2 and MOX. UO2 fuel respectively, that will be loaded first and then convert to MOX fuel
along with the development of MOX technology. Breeding ability is a significant feature of CFR-600 with 1.2 as the breeding ratio

At the pre-conceptual design stage, research about key parameters related to breeding ratio, including fuel pin diameter, axial blanket design, core layout etc., is done in detail. Another important feature of CFR600, sodium void effect is researched at the same time.

CFR-600 will be divided into three fuel regions. The maximum burnup is about 100MWd/kgHM. Control rods are utilized for reactivity control and reactor shut down. CFR-600 will also be equipped with passive emergency shutdown system.

To provide defense in depth against core melting caused by beyond design basis accidents, CFR-600 will be equipped with a core catcher, which will keep the melting material subcritical and provide long-term cooling.

Full name: China Fast Reactor 600
Designer: China Institute of Atomic Energy
Reactor type: Sodium -cooled Pool type Reactor
Electrical capacity: 600MWe
Thermal capacity: 1500 MWth
Coolant Sodium
Primary Circulation Forced
System Pressure: 0.054MPa
System Temperature: 380(inlet)/550(outlet) °C
Fuel Material: UO2(initial stage)/MOX(later stage)
Emergency safety systems: hybrid
Residual heat removal systems: hybrid
Design Life: 60Years
Design status: Concept
Planned deployment/1st date of completion: 2023
New/Distinguishing Features: CFR 600 will be designed to demonstrate the breeding ability of fast reactor

Originally, China had planned to base its commercial fast reactor development on Russia’s BN-800 design. In October 2009, CIAE and China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation (CNEIC) signed an agreement with Russia’s Atomstroyexport to start pre-project and design works for a commercial nuclear power plant with two BN-800 reactors – referred to by CIAE as ‘project 2’ of the Chinese Demonstration Fast Reactors. Construction was to start in 2013 for commissioning in 2018/19. However, the project appears to have been dropped, largely because of differences over cost and technology transfer. China is now seeking to develop its own fast reactor technology based on its experience gained with the CEFR.