UK needs 12 years to build 440 MW nuclear reactor while China needs 3 years to make 400MWth reactors

Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc says it will take 12 years to build its prototype small nuclear reactor in the U.K. Rolls-Royce needs as many as five years for the licensing and design assessment process, while construction will take another seven for its first 440-megawatt model, Wood. China is talking about making a couple of new 400 MW deep pool nuclear reactor prototypes within 3 years and then mass producing them by the dozens with 2 years needed to make each one.

Britain is one of several countries assessing the feasibility of building small modular reactors, or SMRs, as they seek cleaner options to coal-fired generation. SMRs are seen as a cheaper and more manageable alternative to giant projects such as the 20 billion-pound ($28 billion) Hinkley Point C in England, which has already run over budget and is several years behind schedule.

China General Nuclear (CGN) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) are both looking to develop small nuclear (400 MW thermal) reactors for district heating. They are China’s top two nuclear energy companies.

Information is from China General Nuclear, NEI Magazine, People’s Daily and China National Nuclear Corporation.

CGN and Tsinghua University are undertaking a feasibility study district heating using domestically-developed NHR200-II low-temperature heating reactor technology.

The NHR200-II low-temperature heating reactor technology is a mature design, which passed a safety review by the National Nuclear Safety Administration in the 1990s, and the design came first in NEA’s review of small-scale nuclear reactor technology in 2016.

There was a 15 page technical document describing the NHR200 in 1994.

CGN said the NHR200-II can be used to provide heat, water and steam for applications including residential heating, industrial process heat and supplying remote areas with energy. It is also flexible to location and can be built near to the end-users. Construction would take only two to three years if done on a mass scale.

The NEA (Chinese National Energy Agency) released a five-year plan – covering 2017-2021 – highlighting the innovation of clean heating technology and consideration of nuclear heating.

China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) has already conducted a successful 168-hour trial run in Beijing of a small district heating reactor know as the Yanlong. CNNC put forward the DHR-400 as an alternative heat supplier for the northern region, with each 400MWt unit able to provide heating to 200,000 urban households. The pool-type design comprises a reactor core immersed in a water-filled tank. It will require CNY1.5bn ($226.7m) in investment, take three years to build and could be plugged directly into existing heating network.

District Heating of Northern Chinese Cities

China’s government agencies, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the National Energy Administration have announced a five-year plan to convert 70% of northern cities to mostly natural gas heating instead of coal.

The government has made “concrete arrangements” regarding geothermal heating, biomass heating, solar heating, gas heating, electric heating, industrial waste heating, and clean coal-fired central heating.

Half of northern China should be converted to clean heating by 2019, reducing bulk coal burning by 74 million tonnes, the reports said. That reduction should reach 150 million tonnes by 2021.

The launch of Yanlong is the first step of CNNC’s ambitious plan to boost nuclear heating in north China in the coming years. The organization expects to build pilot nuclear-fired boilers by 2018 before putting them into commercial operation after 2020. (Beijing Review)

A 400-megawatt nuclear heating reactor can generate as much heat per year as the burning of 320,000 tons of coal or 160 million cubic meters of natural gas, and Yanlong releases no carbon dioxide or dust into the air. Yanlong, if used as an alternative to coal-fired or gas-fired boilers of the same supply capacity, will reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 640,000 tons or 204,600 tons per year.

To produce a gigajoule of heat with a DHR-400 costs just 30-40 yuan ($4.58-6.1), on par with traditional coal-fired boilers, and around 40 percent of the cost to produce the same amount using a gas-fired boiler.