Fuel loading began at China's high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) demonstration project in Shidaowan, the HTR-PM on 5 April in preparation for operation later this year, China Nuclear Industry 23 Construction Company Limited (CNI23) announced on 8 April. CNI23 said the reactor cavity will be filled with a total of 245,318 fuel elements, to a depth of over 11 metres.
Each spherical graphite fuel element is 60mm in diameter, weighs about 0.192kg and contains 7g of uranium enriched to 8.5%. The 0.5mm-diameter uranium kernels are coated by three layers of pyro-carbon and one layer of silicon carbon. The coated fuel elements are then dispersed in matrix graphite which is 5cm in diameter. Surrounding the fuel-containing graphite matrix is a 5mm thick graphite layer.
A prototype fuel-production facility with an annual capacity of 100,000 fuel elements. was built in 2005 at the Institute for Nuclear and New Energy Technology (INET) at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Construction of the HTGR fuel-production factory in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, began in 2013 and in 2015 commissioning and trial production started. Irradiation tests of five fuel spheres for the HTR-PM took place in the High Flux Reactor in Petten, the Netherlands, from October 2012 to December 2014.
Work on two demonstration HTR-PM units at China Huaneng Group's Shidaowan site near Weihai city in China's Shandong province, began in December 2012. The plant will initially comprise twin HTR-PM reactor modules driving a single 210MWe steam turbine. A proposal to construct two 600MWe HTR plants at Ruijin city in China's Jiangxi province, each comprising three twin reactor and turbine units, passed a preliminary feasibility review in early 2015. Construction of the Ruijin reactors, which will be based on the demonstration HTR-PM design, is expected to start next year, with grid connection in 2021.