China Nears Completion of First Commercial Walk-away Safe Nuclear Reactor

Twin HTR-PM reactors will drive a single 210 MWe turbine in China’s high-temperature pebble bed reactor. This new reactor could eventually be mostly factory mass-produced. The higher temperature will make it about 45% thermal efficiency versus 34-40% efficiency for pressure water reactors. 18 more HTR-PM units are proposed at Shidaowan.

* pebble bed reactors have 9 grams of uranium in each tennis ball-sized pebble
* the pebbles can melt a plug and spread out in a pan so that gravity and physics prevent a meltdown. This makes them walk-away safe.

The higher temperature means that the waste heat can be used to for industrial applications. The temperature matches the level of advanced coal plants so that it would easier to use these reactors to replace coal burners. 80% of a coal plant would not be altered.

Beyond HTR-PM, China proposes a scaled-up version called HTR-PM600, which sees one large turbine rated at 650 MWe driven by some six HTR-PM reactor units. Feasibility studies on HTR-PM600 deployment are underway for Sanmen, Zhejiang province; Ruijin, Jiangxi province; Xiapu and Wan’an, in Fujian province; and Bai’an, Guangdong province.

The reactor pressure vessel, steam generator and the hot gas duct of the second reactor at China’s demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor plant (HTR-PM) have been successfully paired and connected.

SOURCES- Columbia Energy Policy – A Comparison of Nuclear Technologies, World Nuclear News

13 thoughts on “China Nears Completion of First Commercial Walk-away Safe Nuclear Reactor”

  1. But the pebble fuel is extremely expensive.

    PWR fuel costs $8/MWh-e based on it’s my job to know this.

    The pebble fuel has 1/50th the fuel loading at more than double the enrichment relative to PWR. The pyrolytic graphite of the pebbles is ‘grown’ atomic layer by layer via thermal decomposition of methane in a vacuum kiln. The waste volume is at least 25x PWR, and the fuel is pricy. Simply not competitive – can’t be.

  2. Well, the link is yours. The time line may have stretched but China still intended to build a string of them in the south coast and Indonesia is also hinted to be interested.
    It’s a modular system so costs will come down rapidly if successful, or not at all.

  3. No they were cancelled because they cost $10 per watt when the project leaders projected $2 per watt. These are “in China” prices. So the project leaders squandered all credibility.

  4. It’s a nonissue. $30 million dollars of helium isn’t much compared to the exorbitant overall cost of these reactors.

  5. They are not the last, did you stopped reading after your quoted paragraph?
    The time line has stretched, but
    ’A proposal to construct two 600 MWe HTR plants – each featuring three twin reactor and turbine units – at Ruijin city in China’s Jiangxi province passed a preliminary feasibility review in early 2015. The design of the Ruijin HTRs is based on the smaller Shidaowan demonstration HTR-PM. Construction of the Ruijin reactors is expected to start next year, with grid connection in 2021.
    China Huaneng noted that memoranda of understanding have been signed with countries including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for cooperation in HTR projects.’

  6. They are cancelled because China is developing 600 MWe pebble bed reactors with Saudi and UAE investments.
    They may be more expensive than PWR but much safer. The cost will come down rapidly if the modular design have the market, and there are in the investing countries.
    Regarding the salt plug, I think they are for molten salt reactors, these pebbles can tolerate very high temperatures which will slow down fissions and have no need for the plugs.

  7. Does anyone know how the He quantity requirements, and hype over the the potential for He shortages, affects He cooled reactor designs? I know most He comes from natural gas extraction, which we currently have in spades thanks to fracking, but longer term, is there a risk for the design?

    FWIW, I’m happy this reactor is moving off of paper. I love the designs with potential for higher thermal utilization. So many novel materials and considerations compared to LWRs.

  8. Somebody in China finally crunched the numbers and found out why these reactors were never built anywhere else.

  9. It is cancelled yes – these are the first and last pair.

    “The demonstration plant’s twin HTR-PM reactors will drive a single 210 MWe turbine. It is expected to start commercial operation in late 2017. An earlier proposal was for 18 further 210 MWe units – giving a total capacity of 3800 MWe – at the Shidaowan site, near Rongcheng in Weihai city, but this has been dropped.”

  10. “80% of a coal plant would not be altered”

    Hmm – so potentially maybe not quite so climate-evil for continuing to build coal-fired plants, assuming they will start doing conversions?

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