China Adapted US and European Nuclear Reactor Technology at Four Times Lower Cost

China will start operating two new large Hualong nuclear reactors this year and another two next year. Each Hualong nuclear reactor will generate one gigawatt of nuclear power. They were made by adapting third generation US and European nuclear reactor technology designs. CNNC ‘Hualong One’ version will be the main domestic model built with the aim of lowering the price of the reactor to equip the national fleet cheaply while having generation 3 or or 3.5 safety levels.

Target cost in China is $2800-3000/kWe, though recent estimates mention $3500/kW. CGN said in November 2015 that the series construction cost would be CNY 17,000/kWe ($2650/kWe), compared with CNY 13,000/kWe for generation II reactors. This is about four times lower cost than US and European reactors built in the USA. China’s costs have been far lower but China’s build of the Western AP1000 system and the French EPR had cost and time overruns. Hualong was originally planned as a reactor for export but is now a main option in China because of problems on the AP1000 construction.

The CNNC and CGN versions will be very similar but not identical; they will have slightly different safety systems, with CNNC use more passive safety under AP1000 influence with increased containment volume and two active safety trains, and CGN with French influence having three active safety trains.

The Hualong One or HPR1000 has 177 fuel assemblies 3.66 m long, 18-24 month refuelling interval, equilibrium fuel load will be 72 assemblies with 4.45% enriched fuel. It has three coolant loops, double containment and active safety systems with some passive elements, and a 60-year design life. The passive systems are able to operate for 72 hours with a sufficient inventory of storage water and dedicated batteries. The CGN version delivers 3150 MWt, 1150 MWe gross, 1092 MWe net, while CNNC quotes 3050 MWt, 1170 MWe gross, 1090 MWe net. Average burn-up is 45,000 MWd/tU, thermal efficiency 36%. Seismic tolerance is 300 Gal. Instrumentation and control systems will be from Areva-Siemens, but overall 90% will be indigenous components.

SOURCES – Xinhua, World Nuclear Association
Written by Brian Wang,

25 thoughts on “China Adapted US and European Nuclear Reactor Technology at Four Times Lower Cost”

  1. Chinese cost data is always suspect, but the order of magnitude is likely correct. They have been building nuclear power plants for 25 years now, gradually building more each year, thus building an experienced labor force. It has been almost 35 years since the US tried to build a new nuclear power plant. Little wonder there wasn’t an experienced labor force hanging around ready to go. Regulation is totally different. After the TMI event the regulator in the US went from being actively supportive to actively hostile. They realized that if they approve anything they get vilified in the press, and if they approve nothing life is good and the pay is the same. In China, once the emperor decides to build a plant, if you are perceived as getting in the way you get a new job involving a water buffalo and a rice paddy. People focus on solving problems, not bureaucratic rules that make little sense in practice.

  2. “Sounds like these China chaps are pretty clever, they finally realized that on [sic] one owns knowledge.”

    Then why did China buy licenses for the IP? Does that imply to you that they are not smart?


  3. Well that’s the theory behind SMRs in the west.

    At some point in time China will settle on a design (CAP1400 I suppose) and just start making 10-20 a year. It’ll be impressive.

  4. You haven’t lived until you see people copying the bad parts of your design/code.

  5. The funding to develop and certify new designs does not live in the common space ether. IP law exists to make sure that company B can’t just copy the hard work of company A and take advantage of all the work that company A did.

    Without IP law there is no real motivation to make anything that can be copied because the advantage lies with the copier instead of the originator of a design.

    Copying is very cheap compared to creating.

  6. No China really wants to play by the rules with respect to nuclear lP licensing because they want to build on the IP they license and resell it. If they haven’t licensed it but just copied it then they would wind up in court over it when they try to build a reactor somewhere other than China.

  7. The US pirated designs wholesale from Britain to kick off their industrial revolution. So did everyone else. Plus talent from all over has been migrating to America for generations. Goes round comes round.

  8. Thinking the “I will give you my fairly owned X if, and only if, you give me your fairly owned Y” is extortion is what led to communism in the first place.

  9. Fair enough. It’s not really extortion if the deal is “give us your IP cheap or no sale”. But yeah, no reason not to, because see point #1.

  10. Sounds like these China chaps are pretty clever, they finally realized that on one owns knowledge.

  11. The latest version of generations of Americans is somewhat less afraid of nuclear than boomers. There is a chance a new plant could be built here. But hell needs to get a lot colder first.

  12. well china does seem to build things quickly and cheaper but its certainly more the regulation side

  13. For once china isnt actually stealing something… have to give china credit here because I think Nuclear is the best solution for a country like theirs long term… wind and solar too unreliable and coal to polluting

    1. The west isn’t using it. Nuclear power = scarry!
    2. Chinese paid to license the IP, no theft involved. No reason to not sell the IP because: see point 1.
  14. Cool, so if I ever run into any of your work I’ll make sure to take it. I like your attitude!

  15. Who pays for new ideas and products to be developed, if they have no way to recoup their investment?

    We could have our governments socialize the costs, but governments have a long history of allocating money according to politics rather than societal benefit.

  16. Is there extortion and theft of intellectual property associated with Hualong? Do tell.

  17. What we are looking at here is perhaps a superior civilization. Germany is shutting down, if not already have, all of the remaining nuclear rectors. USA sees only extortion and theft of intellectual property because has a limited capacity in understanding the fact that all knowledge originates and lives in the common space, there isn’t really such thing as intellectual property

  18. So what is the difference? Is it the overbearing regulations in the west, or is it the lower labor cost in China?

  19. Yeah, the combination of extortion and theft of intellectual property is kinda breathtaking, but if the West isn’t gonna use this stuff, I guess it’s good that the fastest-growing and soon-to-be-largest economy in the world is getting some use out of it.

    Still kind sets my teeth on edge, though.

  20. The more of the same model reactor you make the lower the price you can make them for. Instead of building them one by one decide to make a few hundred units and order the parts accordingly. That will lower cost by 50% or more.

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