China speeds up nuclear construction

26 March 2016

China's 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) calls for operating nuclear generating capacity to double over the next five years to some 58GWe, up from the current capacity of almost 27GWe as well as for the start of construction of a new coastal power plant (location undisclosed). It also says that preparatory work will be carried out for inland plants and for work on a reprocessing plant to start by 2020. The plan, endorsed by China's National People's Congress earlier in March, will be officially implemented in the next few months.

This represents a key policy change since the previous plan (2011-15), which, in the wake of Fukushima, called for a "small number" of nuclear projects to be approved each year after full discussion. Only coastal plants were approved, with significant rescheduling of inland projects at Taohuajiang, Xianning and Pengze, which had previously been expected to start construction before 2015.

Under the new plan, China will complete construction of the four AP1000 pressurized water reactor units currently under construction at Sanmen NPP in Zhejiang province and Haiyang NPP in Shandong province. In September Sanmen 1 is expected to be the first Westinghouse-design AP1000 to start operating, followed by Haiyang 1 before the end of the year. Containment tests have already been completed at both units. All four AP1000s are scheduled to be operating by the end of 2017.

Construction of a demonstration CAP1400 plant at Huaneng Group's Shidaowan NPP in Shandong province is also set to begin during the plan period - one of 16 strategic projects under China's National Science and Technology Development Plan. CAP1400 is a larger version of the AP1000 developed from the Westinghouse (part of Toshiba) original by State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) with consulting input from Westinghouse. It is intended to be deployed in large numbers across China and may also be exported. Site preparation is underway and the pouring of first concrete is expected to take place soon.

By 2020, demonstration projects based on China's Hualong One reactor are to be completed at China National Nuclear Corporation's (CNNC's) Fuqing NPP in Fujian province and China General Nuclear's (CGN's) Fangchenggang NPP in Guangxi. First concrete for Fuqing 5 was poured last May, while construction on unit 6 began in December. Fuqing 5 and 6 should be completed in 2019 and 2020. Construction of Fangchenggang 3 also began in December (for completion in 2019) and construction of unit 4 will begin later this year (for completion in 2020).

The plan also calls for construction to be accelerated of Phase III (units 5 and 6) at the Tianwan NPP in Jiangsu province featuring 1,080 MWe ACPR1000 reactors. Tianwan units 1 to 4 are Russian-supplied 1,000MWe VVER reactors. Tianwan Phase III was among the projects temporarily suspended after the Fukushima accident. Phase I (units 1 and 2) are already operating and Phase II (units 3 and 4) is almost complete.

AtomStroyExport, a subsidiary of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, is the main contractor, supplying the nuclear island. Construction work began on unit 3 in December 2012, and on unit 4 in September 2013. The units are expected to start operation in 2016 and 2017 . The Tianwan plant is owned and operated by Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation, a joint venture between CNNC (50%), China Power Investment Corporation (30%) and Jiangsu Guoxin Group (20%).

The 13th Five Year Plan also calls for accelerating the construction of a demonstration as well as a large commercial scale reprocessing plant. CNNC and France's Areva signed an agreement in November 2007 to assess the feasibility of setting up an 800t a year reprocessing plant for used fuel in China. This was followed by an industrial agreement for the project in November 2010, while in April 2013 a further agreement was signed setting out the technical specifications for the plant. Another agreement was signed in March 2014 to complete the business case for the project, followed by a memorandum of understanding June 2015, which Areva said "formalizes the end of technical discussions, defines the schedule for commercial negotiations and confirms the willingness of both groups to finalize the negotiations in the shortest possible timeframe". Last September, CNNC said that it is selecting a site for the facility, adding that construction ty was expected to start in 2020 to be completed in 2030.

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