China’s self-developed third-gen nuclear reactor put into commercial operation

Photo shows the No. 5 unit of Fujian Fuqing Nuclear Plant.(Photo courtesy of the China National Nuclear Corporation )

China’s first nuclear power unit using Hualong One, a domestically designed third-generation nuclear reactor, has entered commercial operation on Jan. 30.

The No. 5 unit of Fujian Fuqing Nuclear Plant, marks that China has made it into the world’s top rank of the third-generation nuclear technology, becoming another country that masters the technology after the U.S., France and Russia.

In nearly 20 years of research and development, the research team of Hualong One conducted a total of 54 research projects, and the reactor holds independent intellectual property rights in multiple fields. Core technologies have been tackled in reactor core design, active and passive safety, fuel, and computational analysis software.

The independent technological innovation propelled the upgrading of high-end equipment manufacturing. Hualong One has over 5,300 suppliers across the country for its more than 60,000 equipments. All core equipments, as well as 88 percent of all equipments were built by China.

Through the demonstration project of Hualong One, China has completely grasped the core technologies and experiences of building third-generation nuclear power plants. The country is now able to manufacture major equipment for 8 to 10 third-generation nuclear power plants.

According to Zhao Hao, general manager of Fujian Fuqing Nuclear Power Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), the commercial operation of Hualong One will likely generate nearly 10 billion kWh of electricity each year, potentially reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 8.16 million tonnes and standard coal consumption by 3.12 million tonnes in annual terms. It is also an equivalent to plantation of over 70 million trees annually. The reactor has a profound significance for China to improve its energy structure, peak carbon dioxide emissions, and achieve carbon neutrality.

From being commenced in Fuqing on May 7, 2015, to the commercial operation on Jan. 30 this year, the No. 5 unit saves 20 to 30 percent of cost compared with similar projects abroad. This makes Hualong One one of the most popular third-generation reactors in the world.

Two Hualong One projects are currently under construction in Karachi, Pakistan, and Chile and the UK also expressed their interest in introducing the reactor, Zhao noted.

Based on current market situations, each Hualong One unit is able to create an output of over 200 billion yuan ($31.01 billion) and create more than 150,000 jobs in China during its designed life. Besides, each exported unit will also generate revenue of nearly 20 billion yuan in the mechanical and material industries

Hualong One is a signboard of China’s equipment manufacturing, just like high-speed trains, said Xu Ligen, chairman of board of the Fujian Fuqing Nuclear Power Co., Ltd.

The most central part of a nuclear power plant is the reactor core in which a minor fault could trigger gigantic problems. “Hualong One is the world’s most advanced third-generation nuclear technology, and safety is its major highlight,” Zhao told People’s Daily.

“We placed three super large tanks above the reactor core, each holding a thousand tonnes of water. Once the active system fails, the water will go down automatically and cool down the reactor,” Zhao said. The combination of passive and active safety system has largely lowered the risk of meltdown and release of radioactive materials, he added.

Besides, the nuclear power plant is covered by a two-layer concrete “shell” with a total thickness of over 3 meters. The shell can not only lock radioactive materials inside, but also resist the impacts from large aircraft and earthquakes of 9 magnitude.

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