China National Nuclear Corporation said this week that the No. 2 reactor of Shidaowan Nuclear Power Plant in East China's Shandong province reached its first criticality on Nov 11. The achievement is an industry landmark, according to CNNC, which noted it was the world's first industrial-scale demonstration plant with a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) with a pebble-bed module.
The demonstration project completed cold and hot tests and fuel loading of double reactors earlier this year and the No. 1 reactor reached the critical stage of success on Sept 12. The HTGR demonstration project has been selected for an exhibition on China's major scientific and technological achievements during the 13th Five-year Plan period (2016-20).
Grid connection is expected soon -- "by the end of this year," said CNNC. "This is also a result of all relevant parties promoting the realization of carbon peak and neutrality goals and the high-quality growth of China's nuclear industry." according to a company statement.
With an installed capacity of 200 MW, the HTGR demonstration project started construction in Rongcheng of Shandong in 2012. It represents an important step in advancing the application of China's fourth-generation nuclear power technology.
The HTGR reactors are believed to have broad development prospects in the commercialization of nuclear-driven power generation, combining cooling, heating and power systems and high-temperature heating capacities. CNNC touted the model for its "inherent safety, high efficiency of power generation, environmental adaptation and versatility." Needless to say, there are also climate-change benefits from HTGR technology.
The project relied on cooperation between Chinergy and Tsinghua University over the past years.
Jointly founded by CNNC and Tsinghua University in 2003, Chinergy has fulfilled the functions of EPC in the construction of HTGR projects to promote the application of HTGR technologies.
"CNNC will make full use of the platform provided by Chinergy in the application of HTGR technologies and strengthen its cooperation with Tsinghua University, as well as other partners, to advance the industrial implementation of HTGR projects and contribute solutions and strength to the realization of national carbon peak and neutrality targets," the company said.
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Pebble-bed Reactors were invented in Germany in mid-1960's. A 15MW Test Reactor was built & operated from late 1960's to 1980s at Juelich Research Center. A 500 MW Reactor was built mid-1970 and operated until mid-1980s by Brown Boveri (now ABB). It was even more advanced and used Thorium in its Triso fuel. It was shutdown due to an incident and UNECONOMIC - due to lack of a large Fuel Cycle market. Late 1990s - ESKOM / South Africa restarted PBMR - but had to give up after 10 years due to lack of financing. Finally - Chinese took over from ESKOM... but have not yet reached the PBMR technology level Germany had 40 years ago. Today the spent PBMR fuel is the most expensive & cumbersome to take care of in Germany.
Lesson: Economy requires that many such reactors are built and in operation.
Future: PBMR concept is best and highest temperature (950 C) HTGR concept.