China Starts Operating Most Powerful Single Nuclear Reactor

China has completed and is now operating an advanced french designed EPR nuclear reactor with 1750 MW of power. This is the most energy from a single nuclear reactor.

The main design objectives of the third generation EPR design are increased safety while providing enhanced economic competitiveness through improvements to previous PWR designs scaled up to an electrical power output of around 1650 MW (net) with thermal power 4500 MW. The reactor can use 5% enriched uranium oxide fuel, reprocessed uranium fuel or 100% mixed uranium plutonium oxide fuel. The EPR was designed to use uranium more efficiently than older Generation II reactors, using approximately 17% less uranium per unit of electricity generated than these older reactor technologies.

The first two EPR units to start construction, at Olkiluoto in Finland and Flamanville in France, are both facing costly delays (to at least 2020). Construction commenced on two Chinese units at Taishan in 2009 and 2010. Taishan 2 is expected to begin operation in 2019. Two units at Hinkley Point in the United Kingdom received final approval in September 2016 and are expected to be completed by 2025.

There are new EPR redesigns which will allow for simpler and faster construction.

The EPR design has several active and passive protection measures against accidents:

* Four independent emergency cooling systems, each providing the required cooling of the decay heat that continues for 1 to 3 years after the reactor’s initial shutdown (i.e., 300% redundancy)
* Leak tight containment around the reactor
* An extra container and cooling area if a molten core manages to escape the reactor (see containment building)
* Two-layer concrete wall with total thickness 2.6 meters, designed to withstand impact by airplanes and internal overpressure

44 thoughts on “China Starts Operating Most Powerful Single Nuclear Reactor”

  1. No, because the French know better than to measure such things in imperial. Every square centimeter, (of safety critical systems) however, is.

  2. Your are quite right, the EPR is a fiasco and has provided the “Antis” with their best arguments against nuclear power: “years behind schedule and hundreds of percent over budget and it is simply too expensive.”

  3. The issue is residual heat and not a continued reaction. Low enriched uranium requires moderation to achieve criticality. No water, no reaction.

  4. Mark, you would not pass the mmpi. You would not be allowed to work in a nuke plant.

    Like working there is: “Hey, there’s some random guy in containment. He has a work order to change a lightbulb but he is sticking screwdrivers in the windings of the eccs pumps.”

    Whatever dude

    The equipment is surveillanced and run quarterly by the way. Any hint of sabotage would waken the Beast of Regulation. Operator would immediately determine extent of condition and find the “conditions”.

  5. Man propose, God dispose. The set of possible failures is much greater that the set of what men can think of.

    Engineers don’t die on the altar of hubris. There are nuclear reactor designs that are inherently safe. Build those.

  6. And then the black swan event happens and all four disconnected emergency cooling system fails.

    Scenario 1: I didn’t get the raise or bonus I deserve because by supervisor is a bad person. I get my revenge by sabotaging all four emergency cooling systems.

  7. 4500mW thermal!?! Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!!!!

    By how many degrees will I, your average Earth resident, feel my yard-temp rise?!

    This is a catastrophe

    Edit: Thought I’d better point out that I jest…

  8. The idea is to prevent the china syndrome who did not happen in Chernobyl who had an full core meltdown.
    Spreading out the molten core however makes sense, an square lattice would work well enough.

  9. I have to wonder if the accountants in China thought that both AP1000s and EPRs were equally viable reactors and that it was worth dropping billions on the EPR.

    I recall that they did this to get access to the IP. Anyhow this reactor is too expensive for even the Chinese and it is a dead end. China is basing their CAP1400 on the AP1000 design which they seem to find to be a superior design.

  10. It isn’t easier to sell to the public because they can’t build them. They are delayed and overbudget everywhere.

  11. The problem after a meltdown/LOCA is the decay heat and chemical reactions that result in the release of gas, not really core criticality.

  12. My assumption is if it were to go critical, the core’s heat would be so intense it would melt the pyramid before it would have any worthwhile impact on the direction of the core

  13. Not elegant, no, but easier to sell to the public if that much harder to fail catastrophically. Even at their worst, they beat fossil fuels.

  14. Only if all the parts are interrelated. The EPR basically has four disconnected emergency cooing systems so in this case the probability is lessened. The EPR has the lowest estimate of core damage but it comes at a significant monetary cost because of such redundancy.

  15. You can’t just refit a PWR for low pressure operation near one atmosphere.

    It would be easier to install 64 bit x86 windows on a 32 bit ARM tablet than it would be to refit an EPR to be a MSR.

  16. Wow.. 4500mW thermal. That is a big bucket of heat indeed.

    I’m excited about this new deployment, but I will be super glad when the days of solid fuel, water cooled, pressurized reactors are behind us, and this reactor can be decommissioned or retro-fittec for low pressure operation.

    Safer designs, which are walk-away and station power loss safe, operating at close to one atmosphere, and without a drop of water needed to cool, are in development (based upon actual prototypes, built and operated in the USA in the 1959’s). When they are deployed at commercial scale, probably around 2024, a new energy era will be upon humankind – one of energy abundance that is effectively decoupled from environmental and geopolitical resource competion effects.

    Maybe then, we will be able to concentrate in earnest on the business of Peace

  17. Also complexity is directly proportional to the probability of an accident. The more parts there are the more difficult it is to test and the higher the probability of failure.

  18. We all know that Gen II reactors rely on Billy-bob and Jedda-bob running a bucket line to keep the reactor cool in case of a station blackout.

    Actually I really hate the EPR. It is just more everything. More wall walls, more pumps, more more more. Strikes me as an inelegant design.

  19. Oh grow up. We don’t show up here for Mrs. Prim’s Grammar workshop.

    As an aside spelling checkers are like The Force. Just let go and trust them and they will only occasionally lead you to the dark side.

  20. Congrats to China you are now operating the most complex nuclear reactor. (I don’t quite mean that as a compliment. Complexity is directly proportional to cost).

  21. You don’t need a pyramid. You just need to spread out the molten corium so that it can better radiate heat.

    The EPR has a core catcher that does this.

  22. Seriously? Where is my comment? I thought I was ‘whitelisted’. Got these DB’s criticizing your spelling but a comment regarding quad-redundant ECCS compared to gen2 designs gets filtered…

  23. The idea has not been discarded. Many designs include a drain for the molten core that spreads it out to prevent further chain reactions.

  24. I worked at a nuclear reactor as a construction worker. I was led to understand that if the core melted down the heat would keep building up because the mass is all together, I would think if you could split the core’s moulton mass up the reaction would die. Why don’t they build a pyramid under the reactor so if it went critical the mass would drop on the peak of the pyramid and split up and run down vertical channels cut in the sides of the pyramid. Now I know the engineers and scientists are much smarter than I am and have thought of this idea and discarded it but I would like to know why.

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