High temperature gas-cooled reactor to be built in Shandong

High temperature gas-cooled reactor to be built in Shandong

China is to develop the first commercial high temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) at a site in the eastern province of Shandong. This new type of nuclear reactor will put China at the forefront of nuclear technology. The reactor could be producing electricity in just five years time.

Plans to increase the number of nuclear reactors throughout China are being backed by both the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Nuclear Association (WNA). China already has an energy shortage and as demand continues to rise the potential for nuclear-based power is being recognised.

The reactor be a ’pebble bed’ design where the nuclear fuel is contained within small graphite pebbles, an innovation designed to prevent meltdown.

’This recent announcement is particularly significant,’ says Steve Kidd, director of strategy and research at the WNA. ’It demonstrates that China is a leader in this particular area of new reactor technology.’ In addition, investment bids are being considered for a new reactor planned for the Guangdong province in the south.

Both the Shandong and Guangdong projects fit into China’s nuclear power programme which aims to have a capacity of 36 million kilowatts by 2020. Kidd emphasised that the nuclear programme is quite modest and that nuclear power can only solve part of China’s energy crisis. He also argues that alternatives, such as wind farms, are not appropriate as huge quantities of regular power are required. ’Renewables cannot currently offer this - only help at the margins,’ he told Chemistry World.

Security is a major issue where nuclear and radioactive materials are involved. Ways to minimise threats to security and increase awareness will be discussed at an international conference on nuclear security which will be held in London from 16 to 18 March.

Vikki Allen