Work on nuclear plants gears up

10:01, December 16, 2009      

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A journalist inspects the construction site of the Sanmen Nuclear Power Plant. The plant will have six reactors with a total capacity of 7,500 mW by 2020. [China Daily]

China's first third-generation nuclear power plant, the Sanmen project, will have six reactors with a total capacity of 7,500 mW by 2020, a source close to the subject said yesterday.

They would provide more than 10 percent of the country's total nuclear power capacity, the source said, without elaborating.

Construction of the second reactor, which has a capacity of 1,250 mW, started yesterday. Work on the first reactor with the same capacity started in April.

More than 40 billion yuan($5.8 billion) is being invested in the first two reactors. The first reactor is scheduled to start generating power in August 2013, and the second one in June 2014, according to the State Nuclear Power Technology Corp (SNPTC), which is building the Sanmen project.

Both reactors have used the AP1000 technology developed by the US-based Westinghouse Co. The Sanmen nuclear power plant is also the world's first plant using the technology.

"Compared with second-generation nuclear power plants that have already come into operation, the safety standard of the Sanmen project is much higher," said Zhong Yingqiang, an executive with Sanmen Nuclear Power Co, the project's operator.

High safety levels are one distinct advantage of third-generation nuclear power projects. They also have a longer life cycle compared with second-generation projects, said analysts.

Besides Sanmen, the third-generation technology has been used at two other nuclear power projects - Haiyang in Shandong and Taishan in Guangdong.

The Haiyang nuclear power plant also uses AP1000 technology from Westinghouse. The first phase of the project was the construction of two reactors. The building of the first reactor started in September.

The Taishan nuclear power plant uses another third-generation technology, the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) technology developed by French nuclear power company Areva. Construction of the two 1,700-mW reactors is scheduled to be completed in 2014, according to the French company.

China, the world's second-largest energy consumer, has put an increasing focus on the construction of third-generation nuclear reactors in recent years. In 2007, the country set up SNPTC, which is mainly responsible for the domestic development of nuclear power using advanced third-generation technology from overseas.

"Development of nuclear energy, a clean energy, fits well with the country's efforts in building an environmentally friendly economy," said Fu Manchang, a nuclear power analyst.

According to an industry plan drawn up by the National Development and Reform Commission, China plans to increase its nuclear power capacity to 40 gW by 2020, accounting for 4 percent of the nation's total power capacity. However, in line with the rapid development of the sector, the target was reportedly revised to 70 gW.

As well as building nuclear projects in the coastal areas, China has also started developing them at inland sites. Three areas, in Hubei, Hunan and Jiangxi provinces, have been chosen as the first batch of inland nuclear projects.

Source: China Daily
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