Construction formally began on 19 May at units 7&8 of China’s Xudabao NPP in Liaoning province and units 3&4 at its Tianwan NPP in Jiangsu province. The ceremony was attended via video-link by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin who witnessed the pouring of first concrete for Tianwan 7 and Xudabao 3. Russia is building the four VVER-1200 reactors under a agreements signed with China in 2018.
Others attending the ceremony included Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Alexander Novak and Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev as well as China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) Chairman Yu Jianfeng and He Lifeng, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
CNNC Chairman Yu Jianfeng noted that the first four units of the Tianwan NPP, which are already operating “serve as an exemplary project for Sino-Russian cooperation in this area”. He said CNNCwas seeking “to significantly increase cooperation with Russian enterprises in such areas as pressurised water reactors, fast reactors, the nuclear fuel cycle, and so on.”
Tianwan 7&8 and Xudabao 3&4 are the largest Sino-Russian joint nuclear energy projects to date, he said, adding that, once completed, they “will provide a solid foundation for optimising the energy structure, promoting energy savings and reducing emissions, and promoting quality development in eastern China and the northeastern part of our country”.
Next to speak was Rosatom head Alexey Likhachev, who was at the site of the Atommash plant, which is manufacturing equipment for Russian projects in China. He said the enterprise was “working with the maximum load in its entire history”, simultaneously manufacturing six reactor vessels with internals and 24 steam generators. “Despite the pandemic, our joint work did not stop for a single day,” he noted, adding: “For many years, the Tianwan NPP project was a symbol of close cooperation between Russia and China. Working together, we have learned to move ahead of schedule.” He said priority equipment for Tianwan 7 and Xudabao 3 had also been delivered to China ahead of schedule. “In parallel, the release of project documentation is in full swing.”
Likhachev invited China to open a new stage of cooperation and more actively develop it in terms of fast reactors, and in terms of a closed fuel cycle. “We believe that we will be able to demonstrate to the world in this way not only the leading role of Russia and China in the development of the existing nuclear energy, but also in the creation of new nuclear technologies.”
China’s President Xi Jinping said energy had always been “the most significant, most successful and largest industry in our practical cooperation, and cooperation in the nuclear sector is its strategically priority direction”. He noted that cooperation is continuously increasing and a number of large projects have been put into operation. With respect to future co-operation, he made three points.
“First, we need to prioritise security and create an example of global nuclear energy cooperation. Safety is a vital guarantee for the nuclear industry. Nuclear safety has no boundaries.” He urged “the most stringent quality requirements and standards for the construction and operation of the four power units, creating a global example in ensuring nuclear safety”. He added: “It is important to fully reveal the potential of our complementarity in the field of market resources, technologies, production capacities and specialists, to promote our cooperation in the nuclear field in breadth and depth, to make a great contribution to the global development of nuclear energy.”
Second, “it is necessary to strive for innovative development, to strengthen scientific and technical cooperation in the nuclear field”. China-Russian co-operation should focus on “environmental protection in the nuclear field, nuclear medicine, nuclear fuel, advanced technologies; strengthen cooperation on fundamental research, on the development of key technologies, and on production; promote the use of the latest digital technologies in the nuclear industry, to make a great intellectual contribution to the innovative development of the global nuclear industry”.
Third, he urged strategic interaction to coordinate development of the global energy governance system. He noted that energy security and accessibility, and promoting its sustainable development are “increasingly intertwined”. There are unprecedented opportunities and challenges for all countries and Russia and China “should contribute to the formation of a fairer, more balanced and accessible, more open global energy management system, and offer more solutions for global energy management”.
He concluded: “At present, the common challenge for all countries is to combat climate change. China and Russia, as responsible powers, should broaden their thinking, promote the establishment of even larger low-carbon cooperation projects such as these four units, and play a constructive role in achieving the goals of global sustainable development.”
Vladimir Putin gave the final address, noting that “Russian and Chinese specialists are implementing a truly landmark, flagship joint project”. He said the new units are planned to be commissioned in 2026–2028. Interaction in the field of peaceful nuclear energy “”is an important component of the entire complex of the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership, he noted.
In addition to the construction of new units at Tianwan and the Xudabao, “many other major Russian-Chinese initiatives have been and are being implemented”, he said. These include an experimental fast neutron reactor built in China with Russian participation. “The issue of China's participation in an international consortium for the construction of a multipurpose fast neutron research reactor in the city of Dimitrovgrad is being considered,” he added. The plans include joint research on closing the nuclear fuel cycle. Russia also supplied China with radionuclide thermal equipment for the Chinese spacecraft, which carried out the first-ever landing on the far side of the Moon in 2019.
Putin said Russia was ready to “further develop the experience of joint construction of nuclear power plants, innovative partnership in the development and implementation of low-carbon and other technologies”. This would “allow our countries to jointly make a significant contribution to supplying world markets with clean energy, to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, implementing the international climate agenda and, in general, ensuring progressive and sustainable global development”.
The Tianwan plant currently comprises four VVER-1000 units supplied by Russia (Phases I and II). Units 1&2 were put into warranty operation in 2007, and units 3&4 began commercial operation in 2018. Tianwan 5&6 (Phase III) are Chinese-designed 1080MWe ACPR1000 pressurised water reactors. Units 7&8 (Phase IV) will be Russian VVER-1200 units. 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 Xudabao plant was originally planned to have six Chinese-designed CAP1000 reactors (based on Westinghouse AP1000 reactor design), with units 1 and 2 in the first phase. Site preparation began in 2010 and the National Development and Reform Commission approved the project in 2011. The National Nuclear Safety Administration approved the site selection for Xudabao 1 & 2 in 2014, with the option for four more units. However, in 2018 Rosatom signed a framework contract for the serial construction of the two VVER-1200 reactors at Xudabao with the possibility of building further units in the future.
Image: Russian President Vladimir Putin who witnessed the pouring of first concrete for Tianwan 7 and Xudabao 3 (Photo credit: Rosatom)