China Forges Ahead with High-Temperature Nuclear Reactors

On Aug. 21, the first batch of nuclear fuel was successfully loaded into unit 1 of the demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor plant (HTR-PM) at Shidaowan, in China’s Shandong province (cf. SAS 44/20). The loading should be completed in 30 days, at which point the first reactor will reach criticality. It should be connected to the grid before the end of the year.

The loading of unit 2 of the HTR-PM is scheduled to take place soon, after which the two small reactors will drive a single 210 MWe turbine. Helium gas is used as the primary circuit coolant. Altogether, 18 more units of this type are planned for the Shidaowan site.

A larger reactor is also in the works –the HTR-PM600, which will have a 650 MWe turbine driven by some six HTRPM reactor units. Feasibility studies are now ongoing for installation at four differents sites throughout the country. Beyond China, there are plans to build similar reactors in up to 30 countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.

China’s breakthroughs in HTR technology are in sharp contrast to the dismal performance in Europe, which a pessimistic “green” ideology prevails. That is especially the case in Germany, where the high temperature reactor design was originally developed in the 1980s, but the one prototype actually built was abruptly shut down in 1989. Serious work on the HTR did however continue in China, Korea and South Africa from the early 1990s on.

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