First fuel shipped to China’s HTR-PM project

13 January 2021

Spherical fuel for China's HTR-PM (Credit: CNNC)China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) said on 12 January that the world’s first industrial-scale high-temperature gas-cooled reactor nuclear fuel element production line at CNNC’s Nuclear Fuel Element Co Ltd had shipped its first batch of fuel to the Shidaowan High Temperature Gas-cooled Reactor Nuclear Power Plant Demonstration Project (HTR-PM) in Shandong.

The event was marked by a ceremony attended by high ranking officials including the heads of relevant departments and units from Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Baotou City, Tsinghua University, CNNC, China Huaneng Group, and Sinosteel Group.

The HTR-PM plant features two small reactors that will drive a single 210MWe turbine Helium gas will be used as the primary circuit coolant. Construction began in December 2012. China Huaneng is the lead organisation in the construction consortium (47.5%), together with CNNC subsidiary China Nuclear Engineering Corporation (32.5%) and the Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology (INET) at Tsinghua University's (20%).

While CNNC's main PWR fuel fabrication plant is at Yibin, Sichuan province, a second civil fuel fabrication plant run by China North Nuclear Fuel Co Ltd (CNNFC) was established at Baotou, Inner Mongolia, in 1998, based on a military plant set up in 1956. This produces the most types of fuel including a production line to make the 9% enriched fuel spheres for the Shidaowan HTR-PM, which started production in 2016 and began full commercial operation the following year. It is based on a trial production line developed by the Institute of Nuclear Energy Technology (INET) at Tsinghua University.

CNNC said that to date the production line has produced more than 730,000 qualified spherical fuel elements, “and indicators such as output, quality and product qualification rate have reached or exceeded the design level”. The production line design capacity is 300,000 units a year. So far, the number of spherical fuel elements sent to the demonstration project is 78,000, which is part of the first batch of 870,000 spherical fuel elements scheduled to be delivered.

CNNC said the high-temperature gas-cooled reactor demonstration project has completed cold tests and began hot testing in early January. Fuel loading is scheduled for April, ready for the start operations later this year.

Hot tests, which began in November are expected to take another two months. The first two stages of the tests - vacuum dehumidification and heating and dehumidification have been completed and hot functional testing has now begun. This will include thermal performance testing of the main helium fan, the fuel handling system, the control rod and its drive mechanism, the helium purification system, and the absorption ball system. CNNC said the hot tests have "laid a solid foundation for fully verifying the system's function, reliability, subsequent fuel loading, grid-connected power generation and other engineering goals”.

Photo: The first batch of spherical fuel elements for China's HTR-PM have now been shipped (Credit: CNNC)

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