China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) on 28 July launched a district heating demonstration project at the Qinshan NPP in Zhejiang Province. The project, in cooperation with the Haiyan County Government, will "provide a nuclear energy solution to solve the heating problem in southern China," CNNC said.

The project will proceed in three stages. The aim is to have a nuclear heating area of 4 million square metres by 2025, covering the main urban area of Haiyan County and the entire area of Shupu Town. The first phase is planned to be completed and put into operation this year, to provide nuclear power central heating of 459,000 square metres in three living areas and 5,000 square metres of apartments for the elderly in Haiyan County. 

“I believe that through the nuclear heating cooperation platform, we can strive to create a Jiangnan Nuclear Heating Demonstration Window and provide a Qinshan Plan to solve the heating problem in the south of my country!" said Huang Qian, Secretary of the Party Committee and Chairman of Qinshan Nuclear Power. 

"Nuclear energy heating technology has mature technical routes, broad market prospects and huge development potential," CNNC said. "As an important livelihood protection project in Haiyan County, the project will use the remaining thermal power from the Qinshan NPP units in winter to provide safe, zero-carbon heating for residents and public facilities in Haiyan County without affecting the original power generation and safety performance of the units." CNNC said the project will help Zhejiang province achieve its goal of carbon neutrality ahead of schedule.

Qinshan, China's biggest NPP, comprises seven reactors. In Phase I a 300 MWe indigenously-designed pressurised water reactor (PWR) was built in 1985. Phase II comprised four CNP-600 PWRs, built with a high degree of localisation. Units 1 and 2 began operating in 2002 and 2004 and units 3 and 4 in October 2010 and April 2021. In Phase III, two 750 MWe pressurised heavy water reactors supplied by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd were commissioned in 2002 and 2003.

Research work in China on the possible application of nuclear heat began in the early 1980s. During 1983-1984, the Institute of Nuclear Energy and Technology (INET) at Tsinghua University used its existing pool-type test reactor to provide space heat for nearby buildings. Construction of a 5MWt experimental nuclear heating reactor (NHR5) at INET began in 1986 and was completed in 1989. The larger, demonstration-scale NHR200-II was developed from this.The NHR200-II low-temperature heating reactor technology passed a safety review by the National Nuclear Safety Administration in the 1990s.

The Chinese government has made clean-energy heating a priority, and in 2017 the authorities issued guidance on clean heating in winter in northern China. The NEA released a five-year plan – covering 2017-2021 – highlighting the innovation of clean heating technology and consideration of nuclear heating. China General Nuclear Power (CGN) and Tsinghua University began a feasibility using NHR200-II technology in 2018 with a view to construction of a demonstration project.

Meanwhile, CNNC in 2017 conducted a successful trial run of a small district heating reactor known as the Yanlong (DHR-400). CNNC put forward the DHR-400 as an alternative heat supplier for the northern region, with each 400MWt unit able to provide heating to 200,000 urban households. The preliminary design was completed in 2018

In 2019, China's State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC) signed a cooperation agreement with the municipal government of the city of Baishan in Jilin province for the Baishan Nuclear Energy Heating Demonstration Project. SPIC said the project adopts the “intelligent heating concept” to build an interconnected and independent heating system. The demonstration project will meet the local heating demand for an area over 80 million square metres, according to SPIC.

China's Haiyang NPP in Shandong province officially started providing district heat to the surrounding area in November 2020. A trial of the project was carried out the previous winter, providing heat to 700,000 square metres of housing, including the plant's dormitory and some local residents. The Haiyang Nuclear Energy Heating Project is expected to provide heating to the entire Haiyang city by 2021.