China begins construction of CFR-600 fast reactor

4 January 2018

China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has started civil nuclear construction works on a 600MWe (1500MWt) demonstration fast reactor at Xiapu, in Fujian province. The pouring of first concrete took place on 29 December.

The CFR-600 reactor, which was designed and developed by the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE) with Russian assistance, will be a demonstration sodium-cooled pool-type fast reactor and is expected to begin commercial operation by 2023.

China's reserach and development on fast neutron reactors started in 1964, supported by Russia.

In July 2010, the 65MWt Chinese Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) achieved first criticality and was connected to the grid in 2011.  Russia's OKBM Afrikantov built the CEFR in collaboration with OKB Gidropress, the Dollezhal Research and Development Institute of Power Engineering  (Nikiet)and the Kurchatov Institute.

The development of a commercial-scale reactor, the 1000-1200MWe CFR-1000 reactor, is under review. A final investment decision is due in 2020 with construction starting in December 2028 and operations scheduled for 2034. Fast neutron reactors are seen as the main reactor technology for China, and CNNC expects the FNR to become predominant by mid-century.

Earlier in December, China Nuclear Industry 23 Construction Co Ltd signed the contract for installation of the nuclear island of the Xiapu fast reactor pilot project, following a tender process. CNNC chairman Wang Shoujun said the project is a major national nuclear science and technology project and is of great significance for realising the closed nuclear fuel cycle, promoting the sustainable development of nuclear energy in China and promoting the development of the local economy.

The company CNNC Xiapu Corp will be directly responsible for the construction of the CFR-600. The shareholders of CNNC Xiapu Corp are CNNC (55%), Fujian Energy Corp  (20%), China Huaneng Group (10%), China Yangtze Power (10%) and Ningde State Asset Management Corp (5%).

Fuel

The CFR-600 will initially use mixed-oxide fuel with 100 GWd/t burnup. Later, the fuel will be metal with a burnup of 100-120 GWd/t. The commercial-scale CFR1000 will use metal fuel with a 120-150GWd/t burnup.  

Both the operating CEFR reactor and the planned CFR-600 reactor are designed to use mox fuel, although currently none is produced in China. The CEFR uses Russian fuel and in January 2017, Russia's TVEL signed a $50m contract with  CIEA to supply of fuel for the CEFR. The agreement is for two additional batches of fuel assemblies in 2017-2018 with loading into the reactor in 2019. TVEL and CIEA have been working together on fuel supply for the CEFR since 1999.

At the Jiuquan site in Gansu province, an experimental laboratory has been built where Chinese scientists have managed to obtain a plutonium as a first step towards producing fuel assemblies for the CEFR. China says the first consignment of MOX assemblies will be loaded into the CEFR at the end of 2018, with post-reactor tests scheduled for 2020.

However,  China has long been in discussions with France’s Areva for a reprocessing plant which will handle 800 tonnes of used nuclear fuel a year. Currently, construction is due to start in 2020 for launch in 2025.


Photo: Construction starts on fast reactor at Xiapu (Credit: CNNC)



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