Recent Developments in Advanced Reactors in China, Russia

  • China Reported to Commit $3 billion to Development of Molten Salt Reactor Designs
  • China Begins Construction of a 600 MW Fast Reactor
  • Update on China’s HTGR, and an MOU with Saudi Arabia
  • Taishan 1 EPR Startup Delayed to 2018
  • Russia to Build Fast Reactor Fuel Plant for Brest-OD-300 Reactor. 

English language media reports indicate that the Chinese Academy of Sciences has announced plans to invest $3 billion (USD) over the next two decades in development of molten salt reactors of various designs. A first order objective is reported to be the kickoff of design and development of a first of a kind 100MW thorium molten salt reactor in 2020 in the city of Wuwei in Gansu province. Commercial development is targeted for the early 2030s.

The program is called the Thorium-Breeding Molten Salt Reactor (TMSR). According to the media reports, the R&D program has two major components and both are tied to fuel types (solid and liquid) for various kinds of molten salt designs.

tmsr roadmap

TMSR R&D Roadmap  ~ Image Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

The Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) is the lead organization operating under the sponsorship of the Academy. It has also signed a cooperation agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for developmental work on the use of lithium-beryllium-fluoride salts as a coolant and heat transfer medium. (Technical briefing 2016 PDF file) The China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) is a collaborator on the project.

The Chinese Academy of Science’s (CAS) Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) and the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to accelerate the development of fluoride salt-cooled high-temperature reactors (FHRs). The CRADA evolved from US–China interactions under a Memorandum of Understanding between the DOE and the CAS on Cooperation in Nuclear Energy Sciences and Technologies.

The CRADA is organized into a series of phases. The approved first phase tasks are 1) to commission and ORNL’s liquid salt test loop and use it to perform pebble bed heat transfer testing, 2) to perform component evaluation and testing, 3) to provide analysis software support, 4) to develop and participate in international FHR training activities, and 5) technical information exchange on FHR supportive technologies.

The lead principal investigator at SINAP is listed as Dr. Kun Chen, Professor and Director, Reactor Systems Engineering, SINAP.  He is expected to give a presentation on the technical scope and status of work in May at the Asia Nuclear Business Platform conference to be held in Shanghai, China, May 9-10..

According to a 2015 U.S. conference bio and presentation given at the University of California, Berkeley, Kun Chen received his bachelor degree in applied physics from University of Science and Technology of China in 2001, and Ph.D. in nuclear physics and scientific computing (minor) from Indiana University in 2006. After graduation, he worked for Argonne National Laboratory as a postdoc and then as a staff member for four years. He joined Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) in 2011 and served as the group leader and then the director of the Nuclear Safety and Engineering Division.

According to the World Nuclear Association the SINAP has two streams of TMSR development – solid fuel (TRISO in pebbles or prisms/blocks) with once-through fuel cycle, and liquid fuel (dissolved in fluoride coolant) with reprocessing and recycle. A third stream of fast reactors to consume actinides from LWRs is planned. The aim is to develop both the thorium fuel cycle and non-electrical applications in a 20-30 year timeframe.

The TMSR-SF stream has only partial utilization of thorium, relying on some breeding as with U-238, and needing fissile uranium input as well. It is optimized for high-temperature based hybrid nuclear energy applications. The TMSR-LF stream claims full closed Th-U fuel cycle with breeding of U-233 and much better sustainability with thorium but greater technical difficulty. It is optimized for utilization of thorium with electrometallurgical pyroprocessing. The Fluorine design is expected to follow the sodium cooled design by about a decade.  (January 2017 Gen IV Briefing – PDF file)

China Begins Construction of a 600 MW Fast Reactor, Announces HTGR Progress

  • Fast Reactor Update

(WNN) China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announces it has broken ground an poured first concrete for a 600 MWe fast reactor in Xiapu, Fujian province. It is scheduled to be complete by 2023.

The CFR-600 is based on a 65 MWe experimental unit which achieved criticality in July 2010 and was connected to the grid in 2011.

The 600 MWe design (IAEA profile PDF file) is considered to be a GEN-IV designs and was developed by the Chinese Institute of Atomic Energy and will use a sodium cooled system. It will be powered by MOX fuel and will have two coolant loops producing steam at 480C / 896F.

There are plans to build a 1000-1200 MWe design that will use a uranium alloy metal fuel. Construction of that unit could start in 2028.

Both designs have active and passive shutdown systems and passive decay heat removal.

  • Update on China’s HTGR includes MOU with Saudi Arabia

In October 2017 China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corp. (SNPTC) reported that it completed the installation of its high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) project. SNPTC’s project, which consists of two 250-MW high-temperature reactor pebble-bed modules located in Shandong province. Tests at the project are expected to end in April 2018. The reactor is scheduled to enter revenue service later in 2018. ,

Construction began on the reactor in late 2012. The project is a joint venture of China Nuclear Engineering and Construction Group (CNEC) and Tsinghua University.

World Nuclear News (WNN) reported in September 2017 that the technology was praised during a roundtable discussion held at the IAEA General Conference.

“Unlike typical reactors, high-temperature reactors are particularly suitable to generate high-temperature process heat in addition to electricity. High-temperature heat from advanced nuclear reactors may be able to have a direct role in climate change mitigation as an alternative energy source for industrial processes.”

CNEC highlighted some potential uses of HTGR technology including power generation, and for process heat for the petrochemical industry.

CNEC also told the IAEA the steam outlet temperature can reach up to 1,000C which can be applied in steel making, coal gasification and hydrogen production.

WNN also reported that CNEC is currently working with Saudi Arabia on the early stages of an HTGR desalination joint venture. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed in August 2017, by Zu Bin, deputy general manager of CNEC, and Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed Al-Saud, chairman of the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology and chairman of the board of directors of Saudi Technology Development and Investment Co.

“According to the MOU, the two parties will work together to carry out [a] feasibility study on developing seawater desalination projects using HTGR.

The reactor uses helium as a coolant instead of water. The primary loop of helium comes out of the reactors at a temperature of 750C. The secondary loop is water to steam which goes to a conventional steam turbine and generator plant., The reactor uses TRISO fuel which makes it a graphite-moderated nuclear reactor and a once-through uranium fuel cycle.

Taisahn 1 EPR Startup Delayed to 2018

(WNN) Areva’s First 1600 MWe EPR in China, the Taishan 1, has completed its hot functional tests according to China General Nuclear, but startup has been delayed until mid-2018. CGN did not provide specifics on the reason for the delay other than to say that additional verification of equipment and systems was needed which will result in the delay.

CGN said that Taisahn 2 is expected to start in 2019, but that date may change based on progress towards completion of installing all equipment and the results of system testing of the reactor in cold and hot modes.

Taishan 1 is the third Areva EPR to approach revenue service the others being units at Olkiluoto 3 in Finland which began hot function tests in December and Flamanville 3 in France which is conducting cold functional tests.

Russia to Build Fast Reactor Fuel Plant for Brest-OD-300 Reactor

(WNN) Russia plans to start a nuclear fuel fabrication plant for its lead-cooled Brest-OD-300 reactor. The Siberian Chemical Combine (SCC), a subsidiary of TVEL, the nuclear fuel manufacturing unit of Rosatom, said the plant will be located in Tomsk, Siberia, one of Russia’s so-called “nuclear cities.”

The decision to proceed is part of a larger effort that also includes construction of a 300 MW fast reactor and a spent fuel reprocessing facility, in addition to the fuel fabrication unit.

The BREST-OD(ODEK)-300 is part of Rosatom’s effort to develop a closed nuclear fuel cycle using Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) fuel derived from the uranium and plutonium in spent nuclear fuel from light water reactors.

According to WNN, Alexander Rodovikov, Director of Fuel Fabrication at SCC, said the equipment to fabricate the fuel had been delivered to the plant.  Nuclear Engineering International Magazine reported on Jan 2, 2018 that in late November, equipment was delivered for sintering fuel pellets.

The equipment included a unique sintering furnace lined with zirconium oxide and equipped with heating elements from tungsten. The complex is fully automated and equipped with a high-temperature furnace. Furnace equipment is manufactured by Sosny LLC (Dimitrovgrad, Ulyanovsk region) together with the French specialists of ECM Technologies.

Last year at this time there were reports that the reactor that will use the fuel was scheduled to begin construction in 2016, but that startip of the reactor project was postponed to 2018 the Russian business daily Kommersant reported in January 2017.

It is not clear how far along the procurement of components for the reactor is in terms of lining up suppliers. The cost of the reactor is also an issue and questions were raised at the time whether Rosatom can afford to build it given overall budget pressures and the state of the Russian economy. There have not been any English language updates on the progress of the reactor itself since 2017.

The World Nuclear Association reported in its most recent update of reactor technology in Russia that the reactor commissioning is expected in 2022. A budget of $809 million has been allocated for the reactor and $550 million for the fuel cycle facilities.

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