Criticality for China’s first fast reactor

23 July 2010

On 21 July 2010, the China Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) achieved first criticality. The country’s first fast reactor to start operation, CEFR could be key to China’s ambitious nuclear plans, which would see up to 250GW of installed capacity by 2050, predominantly from FBRs.

CEFR is a 65MWt and a 20MWe sodium cooled, pool-type fast reactor. It is located at the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE), just outside of Beijing. The $350 million CEFR project aims: to accumulate experience on fast reactor design, construction and operation; to act as a fast neutron facility to irradiate and develop fuels and materials; and to act as a platform to test and demonstrate prototype equipment needed for fast reactors, according to the project’s chief engineer Xu Mi.

As the first stage in China’s fast reactor deployment strategy, CEFR was to be followed by a 600MW demonstration fast reactor around 2020 and then by a commercial version for deployment by 2030. A larger demonstration fast breeder unit (1000-1500MW) was also planned to start up by 2035.

These plans could now be overtaken or delayed following a cooperation agreement signed with Russia’s Atomstroyexport in October 2009. This agreement will see project and design work for two commercial BN-800 fast reactors. Construction of these reactors could start as early as August 2011, although sites have not yet been specified.

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