Pilot production of fuel elements for China's high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR), the HTR-PM demonstration project, has started at Baotou, Inner Mongolia. Operation of the HTGR fuel production line began on 27 March when the first tank of uranium dioxide powder was slowly poured into the dissolution tank, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) approved an operating licence for the production line earlier in March. It will have an annual capacity of 300,000 spherical fuel elements. NNSA issued a permit for its construction in February 2013 and installation of equipment was completed in September 2014.
The will be used by the demonstration HTR-PM nearing completion at Shidaowan, near Weihai city in Shandong province. This will initially comprise twin HTR-PM reactor modules driving a single 210MWe steam turbine. Construction started in late 2012, with commercial operation scheduled for 2017.
The Institute for Nuclear and New Energy Technology (INET) at Tsinghua University has conducted research on HTGR fuel element technology for the past 30 years and developed a trial production line with an annual capacity of 100,000 spherical fuel elements. The new line is based on the same technology. INET has supplied specialided equipment for three key processes in the production of the spherical fuel elements: manufacturing, ageing, washing and drying equipment for uranium dioxide; fuel pellet coating equipment; and, a press for forming the spherical fuel elements.
In December, qualification irradiation tests of the fuel elements were completed at the High Flux Reactor at Petten in the Netherlands. INET requires qualification of its fuel to support licensing of the HTR-PM reactor systems.
A proposal to construct two 600MWe HTR plants - each with three twin reactor modules and turbine units - at Ruijin city in China's Jiangxi province passed a preliminary feasibility review in early 2015. Construction of the Ruijin reactors is expected to start next year, with grid connection in 2021.