China Launching 1500 MWe Nuclear Power Plant

China’s State Power Investment Corp (SPIC) has officially launched the CAP1400 reactor design. the 1500 MWe design is a larger version of the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor. The plan is for many of these nuclear reactors to be built in China and for export to other countries. Once mass production of the CAP1400 starts, the project cost can be reduced by about 20%. Over 90% of the equipment and components can be made with internal Chinese suppliers. This includes main pumps, valves, pressure vessels, steam generators, reactor internals, control rod drive mechanisms, large forgings, nuclear-grade welding materials, 690 U-shaped pipes and other key equipment.

Construction of two demonstration CAP1400 units is continuing at Huaneng Group’s Shidaowan site in Shandong province. The CAP1400 projects were approved in 2019.

The CAP1400 can be used for non-power applications, such as heat, steam supply, hydrogen production and desalination. China is constructing a reactor to provide solely district heating, which he said will improve the environment, especially in this northern area of the country.

The CAP1400 power generation costs are 6 cents/kilowatt hour and USD6 per gigajoule of heat. This is less than USD15 per gigajoule for heating only alternatives. The CAP1400 price could go down to 4.8 cents per kilowatt-hour with mass production.

If the straight kwh of electricity costs are compared then the 4-5 cents for solar in some parts of China can be cheaper, but the solar price does not include the cost of backup (either natural gas or coal in China) or energy storage. Peaker plants (natural gas) cost twice as much because they are only running at peak hours. The combined costs to get to stable energy generation for an apples to apples comparison and to match the actual energy demand are better for nuclear.

Nuclear at 6 cents generates per kwh makes almost twice as much energy as heat. This cogeneration offsets the cost. China uses heat for industrial purposes and to heat homes.

Curtailment is wasted energy generation when it is making too much at the wrong time. Generating too much power at midday from renewables can mean 7%-15% is wasted. Curtailment sometimes reaches 39%.

Not generating at night or cloudy days or polluted days means that backup is needed. The solar power also needs to be rebuilt in 20-25 years while the CAP1400 nuclear plant will last for 60 years and probably over 100 years with a refit in 60 years.

China’s nuclear energy is still less expensive than solar and wind power.

The pressurized water reactor CAP1400 was one of the sixteen National Science and Technology Major Projects. The contract with Westinghouse banned China from selling its version overseas unless it generated over 1,350 megawatts. The CAP 1400 reactors can now generate around 1,500MW of electricity.

President Xi Jinping promised to make China carbon neutral by 2060.

The CAP 1400 is the second third-generation nuclear technology China has developed. The Hualong One reactors based on a French design.

The reactors are designed to last 60 years. The chance of an accident is 100 times lower than with second-generation technology.

Each reactor can provide the energy demand of 22 million people and cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 9 million tonnes.

In 2019, China emitted about 14 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Building 200 CAP1400 reactors would reduce China’s emissions by 1.8 billion tons.

China could accelerate nuclear energy buildout to reach 200 GW in 2030 and 400 GW by 2050. This is according to a 2018 research paper on Prospects in China for nuclear development up to 2050.

China could also make significant progress toward closing the nuclear fuel cycle by developing facilities to reprocess uranium (like in France and Japan) and with fast breeder reactors.

SOURCES -South China Morning Post, World Nuclear News, Yanxin Chen, Guillaume Martin, Christine Chabert, Romain Eschbach, Hui He, et al.. Prospects in China for nuclear development up to 2050. Progress in Nuclear Energy, Elsevier, 2018, 103, pp.81 -90. ff10.1016/j.pnucene.2017.11.011ff. ffcea-01908268f, Carbon Brief
Written by Brian Wang,