China Nuclear Reactors for Heat Have Safety Proven by Undergrads For 50 Years in 24 Countries

The Triga pool nuclear reactors have been operated by undergrads at US, Canada and European universities for about 50 years. They have had power ranges from 250 kilowatts to 16 megawatts. China will make them 20 times bigger and reach 200 MW thermal to 400 MW thermal heat. This will provide pollution-free heating for China’s northern cities and save on the use of 80 to 150 million tons of coal each year at a cost of $20 per megawatt hour. The 400 WW thermal reactor will cost about $225 million to build and construction will take 2 to three years.

Beijing Review described the savings in coal and reduced air pollution for costs of $20 per thermal megawatt hour. $20 per megawatt hour is higher than the $30 per megawatt hour that the wind industry hopes to achieve by 2030. Wind and solar are far higher cost for generating heat versus generating electricity. South Korea and China have been competitive in costs for constructing and operating nuclear power as the best prices for solar and wind. South Korea and China have nuclear electricity costs of 3.5 cents per kwh and construction costs of about $2000 per kilowatt.

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.

District heating reactors

Each of China’s three major nuclear reactor construction companies (CNNC, CGN and SPIC) have announced concepts for low-temperature district heating reactors. Development of these acknowledges the role of heating in air pollution, particularly PM2.5 particulates, which are reported to be more than ten times higher in winter.

CGN – The NHR200-II reactor is a low-temperature district heating reactor. Its design is described by CGN as “mature”, having passed National Nuclear Safety Administration review in the 1990s. In February 2018 it was announced that CGN and Tsinghua University were carrying out a feasibility study on constructing China’s first district heating nuclear plant using the NHR200-II design.

CNNC – The District Heating Reactor-400 (DHR-400) or ‘Yanlong’ is a low-temperature 400 MW pool-type reactor. It is designed to provide heat at 90°C for up to 200,000 three-bedroom apartments. The reactor prototype achieved 168 hours of continuous heat supply in November 2017 – seen by its developers, CNNC, as the first major step towards commercialization of the design.

SPIC – The Advanced Happy200 is similar to the Yanlong, 200 MW and producing hot water at 110°C. Pre-feasibility studies suggest first commissioning in 2022. In February 2019, SPIC contracted to build the Baishan Nuclear Energy Heating Demonstration Project in Jilin province.

There have been many safety studies of the pool reactors and even in situations where there is some damage the amount of radiation exposure is at about the level of an x-ray.

The Chinese government will use geothermal heating, biomass heating, solar heating, gas heating, electric heating, industrial waste heating, and clean coal-fired central heating to reduce pollution from 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. If Nuclear thermal heating makes a major contribution to the reduction of coal or natural gas heating, then China could save the usage of UK (68 million tons per year of coal usage) to half of Germany (135 million tons per year is half of Germany’s 270 million tons per year of coal usage).

According to Nicobar, China’s goal is to have 110 nuclear units in commercial operation by 2030, but this target is likely to be adjusted in the next Five-Year Plan, the first draft of which will appear this year.

SOURCES : NEI Magazine, NRC, Youtube, Beijing Review
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