China’s First Next-Gen Nuclear Reactor Enters Commercial Operations

By Bloomberg

Dec 06, 2023

image is BloomburgMedia_S586RNT0AFB401_06-12-2023_08-00-09_638374176000000000.jpg

Model of the Shidao Bay high temperature gas-cooled reactor.

China’s nuclear power ambitions received a boost Wednesday as the country’s first next-generation reactor entered into commercial operations.

China Huaneng Group Co.’s 200-megawatt unit at Shidao Bay is the world’s first high temperature gas-cooled reactor, the National Energy Administration said in a WeChat post. The reactor was given permission to start commercial service after it operated for 168 consecutive hours.

The unit differs from traditional nuclear plants by heating up helium instead of water to produce power, an important consideration for inland plants given increasing concerns over climate change-fueled droughts. It’s also designed to shut down automatically if something goes wrong — in contrast to some older systems that required electricity to trigger safety measures, which is what led to the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan in 2011.

The plant is more than a decade in the making. Construction began in 2012, and produced its first electricity in 2021. 

China accounts for 25 of the 61 reactors that are under construction globally, and is expected to pour as much as $440 billion into new plants over the next decade and a half, overtaking the US as the top generator of atomic electricity.

Nuclear power is in the midst of a revival globally amid rising concerns of energy security and fossil fuel emissions. The US and 21 other countries, including France, the UK and Ukraine, signed a declaration last weekend to work toward tripling global nuclear power capacity by the middle of the century. China was not a signatory.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

By Bloomberg News

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