Fast reactors are expected to enter the Chinese nuclear power market by 2035, a leading scientist has said.
Wang Naiyan, member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and director of the CAS Atomic Energy Institute, said Wednesday at an annual national conference of the academy that China would develop commercial fast reactors in about 30 years and fast reactors are expected to develop steadily by 2050 and become a major force in nuclear energy.
"Thanks to advanced technology, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster won't happen again," Wang said. "While upgrading our thermal reactor technology, we should take every opportunity to develop the fast reactor technology, known as an industry for tomorrow."
He said the fast reactor system included a series of complicated technological and engineering issues as mixed oxide fuel (MOX) technology and fast reactor fuel fabrication.
The only fissile material found in nature is uranium-235, which makes up less than one percent of natural uranium. While some fissile plutonium is produced in a thermal reactor, it is not enough to replace the uranium-235 used. In a fast reactor, however, enough plutonium can be produced and fissioned to more than make up for the uranium-235 used.
In addition, many of the long-lived actinide elements that cannot be fissioned in a thermal reactor can be burned in a fast reactor, so the fast reactor is capable of destroying the major source of long-life radiotoxicity in spent fuel. Thus, the fast reactor can create new fuel and destroy long-life nuclear waste and plutonium while it produces electricity.
"The fast reactor and the nuclear fuel closed cycle technologies will enable the natural uranium to be used for thousands of years," Wang acknowledged. "China has not yet started research and development of the fast reactor fuel closed cycle because it is a very difficult problem. China should learn from foreign experience and develop our own scheme."