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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32 thoughts on “China Nuclear Reactors for Heat Have Safety Proven by Undergrads For 50 Years in 24 Countries”

  1. I looked up the Canadian ‘ Slowpoke’ reactor, that was kind of similar – used beryllium neutron relectors for control. The AECL offered one to a hospital in Quebec. It would have made their radioisotopes cheaper than a cyclotron, and heated the hospital as well. Over our dead bodies, said the local authorities. Ditto the Eskimos who were surviving Arctic winters and paying 30c/kwh for power from diesel – when they could get it. The Russians put in a heat and power plant at Bilibino that’s still working, but for everyone else it’s been like dosing kids with cod liver oil.

  2. We’ve seen other, earlier reports and articles about the same basic idea. A heat exchanger is part of the deal.

    I don’t think ANY reactor operator would be OK with the idea of filling his core with some fluid that came in from an outside source.

  3. I am absolutely sure that someone, somehow, would work out some suicidally stupid way to hurt themselves if the general public was given access.

    People hurt/kill themselves with train and cars, and there you can see the hazard right there in a form that a caveman would comprehend.

    Hold my baiju and watch this…

  4. Because people are terrified of the word “nuclear”.
    Why do you think they changed the name of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance machines?

  5. Actually I’d expect undergraduates to be able to cause accidents that the chimps on meth would not be able to cause.
    Because the really impressive accidents require you to be able to control the system well enough to get into real trouble.

  6. It’s not really economic unless you have an air quality emergency. China does.

    EDIT: Or if you’re 60 degrees north or more.

  7. I was mostly being snarky, but it’s a mistake to assume that complex systems get significantly safer with everyday use. You have to actually trace out the failure trees and test them all the way through.

    And no, building a bong into the side of a cooling pond doesn’t count…

  8. Maybe a series of sediment (crud) traps and tight control of water purity could allow them to pump the irradiated water through town. Thing is that all the plumbing in the circuit would need to be held to that standard. You would want that water degassed of N2 methinks. Don’t want to be pumping activated rust particles around the loop. Heat exchanger sounds more wise.

  9. No mention of a heat exchganer from the same source.

    “Each steel-and-concrete reactor pool measures about 10 metres in diameter and 20 metres deep, and holds up to 1,800 tonnes of water. A nuclear core is submerged in the water and can create up to 400 megawatts of heat to water to about 90 degrees Celsius for distribution through the city’s public heating network.”

  10. If they put in a glass partition a couple of metres down, and ran them at minimum power in summer, you could have an actual swimming pool on top of them – it would be a real tourist attraction looking down at the Cerenkov radiation.

  11. The water in the reactor is not pumped through the district heating circuit – they use a heat exchanger.

  12. The more dangerous you believe undergraduates to be, the better proven the safety is by having generations of undergraduates using them without accident.

    If I said, “This reactor design has been run by several generations of chimpanzees on meth, without any accidents.” you’d be impressed with how remarkably safe it was, no?

  13. The safety was proven based on the physics of the design itself. Any users of the reactor simply verify this fact. One of the standard things they can do is have all the control rods pulled out, and the thing automatically shuts down.

  14. Here is from the Chinese press:

    “Zhang warned that widespread construction of such reactors in or near densely populated areas could ignite street protests if the decision was made without genuine public consultation.
    There were also other problems.
    “The fuel of uranium-235 is also expensive and of limited supply. It will also be a challenge to store and handle the large amount of radioactive nuclear waste produced by these reactors,” Zhang said.”

    Multiply that by that many pools by that many cities. Pretty sure that problems will arise also from water radiation, although that will take decades to understand, just the same way that our materialistic cause and effect science has very limited ability to show the effects of several other artificial vibration sources on living organisms. I see better solutions.

  15. PSW 2370 Particles and Nature of Nothing | David Kaplan|21:48

    Episode 50: Particles And Waves – The Mechanical Universe
    Hey, there’s a picture of Einstein 6:48.inordinate.inversion|caltech 12,012
    Physics for Poets – The Nature of Existence: Webisode – YouTube
    LThat’s the shape: egg & ovule minropyle for all of China’s/Chromos REACTORS…2:40pm

  16. Is anybody here as terrified by the phrase “safety proven by undergrads” as I am?

  17. Also, these ‘swimming pool reactors’ run at very low pressure, so there’s nothing to drive the spread of any radiation. The core is at the bottom of a twenty or thirty foot deep pool, so it’s not going to dry out. The coal they’re burning now has a few parts per million of uranium in it, so releases much more radiation than these things would.

  18. Beijing and the area around it gets long periods in winter with no wind, very cold temperatures, and fog – which becomes smog when they burn coal, to keep from freezing. Any solar power would have to be cabled in from miles away, and at that time of year, there’s not much to store anyway.

  19. Mass-producing (to drive the prices down) inherently-safe small nuclear reactors seems the way to go. Kudos China.

  20. There was one in my university, and no one died. They’re safe by design, meaning that they can’t melt down, whatever you do, it’s not physically possible.

  21. If you would have followed the science reporting, you would have seen that nuclear, by far, has the lowest amount of casualties per kWh of all energy sources.

  22. the sun doesn’t shine for 2 weeks in the winter, you’re happy to let everyone freeze to death?

  23. design is inherently safe, unless you swim down to the core and hug it. There was one at UC Berkeley, right under the tennis courts. The anti-nuke nutcases got it removed for no reason other than their unfounded fear of what they could not understand.

  24. Not risky. They move forward as we are paralyzed by unjustified fear. Much to our future regret.

  25. …Stupid, building district nuclear reactors in the middle of mega cities risking the life of millions and increasing radiation levels when China is the world leader in sun heating collectors. Sun heated water can be stored for many hours when there is no sun.

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