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Recent Developments in Advanced Reactors in China, Russia

Alternative Energy
  • China Reported to Commit $3 billion to Development of Molten Salt Reactor Designs.
  • China Begins Construction of a 600 MW Fast Reactor.
  • Taishan 1 EPR Startup Delayed to 2018.
  • Russia to Build Fast Reactor Fuel Plant for Brest-OD-300 Reactor.

English language media reports indicate that the Chinese Academy of Sciences has announced plans to invest $3 billion (USD) over the next two decades in development of molten salt reactors of various designs. A first order objective is reported to be the kickoff of design and development of a first of a kind thorium molten salt reactor in 2020 in the city of Wuwei in Gansu province. Commercial development is targeted for the early 2030s.

The program is called the Thorium-Breeding Molten Salt Reactor (TMSR). According to the media reports, the R&D program has two major components and both are tied to fuel types (solid and liquid) for various kinds of molten salt designs.

tmsr roadmap

TMSR R&D Roadmap  ~ Image Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory


The Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) is the lead organization operating under the sponsorship of the Academy. It has also signed a cooperation agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for developmental work on the use of lithium-beryllium-fluoride salts as a coolant and heat transfer medium. (Technical briefing 2016 PDF file) The China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) is a collaborator on the project.

The Chinese Academy of Science’s (CAS) Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) and the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to accelerate the development of fluoride salt-cooled high-temperature reactors (FHRs). The CRADA evolved from US–China interactions under a Memorandum of Understanding between the DOE and the CAS on Cooperation in Nuclear Energy Sciences and Technologies.

The CRADA is organized into a series of phases. The approved first phase tasks are 1) to commission and ORNL’s liquid salt test loop and use it to perform pebble bed heat transfer testing, 2) to perform component evaluation and testing, 3) to provide analysis software support, 4) to develop and participate in international FHR training activities, and 5) technical information exchange on FHR supportive technologies.

The lead principal investigator at SINAP is listed as Dr. Kun Chen, Professor and Director, Reactor Systems Engineering, SINAP.  He is expected to give a presentation on the technical scope and status of work in May at the Asia Nuclear Business Platform conference to be held in Shanghai, China, May 9-10..

According to a 2015 U.S. conference bio and presentation given at the University of California, Berkeley, Kun Chen received his bachelor degree in applied physics from University of Science and Technology of China in 2001, and Ph.D. in nuclear physics and scientific computing (minor) from Indiana University in 2006. After graduation, he worked for Argonne National Laboratory as a postdoc and then as a staff member for four years. He joined Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) in 2011 and served as the group leader and then the director of the Nuclear Safety and Engineering Division.

According to the World Nuclear Association the SINAP has two streams of TMSR development – solid fuel (TRISO in pebbles or prisms/blocks) with once-through fuel cycle, and liquid fuel (dissolved in fluoride coolant) with reprocessing and recycle. A third stream of fast reactors to consume actinides from LWRs is planned. The aim is to develop both the thorium fuel cycle and non-electrical applications in a 20-30 year timeframe.

The TMSR-SF stream has only partial utilization of thorium, relying on some breeding as with U-238, and needing fissile uranium input as well. It is optimized for high-temperature based hybrid nuclear energy applications. The TMSR-LF stream claims full closed Th-U fuel cycle with breeding of U-233 and much better sustainability with thorium but greater technical difficulty. It is optimized for utilization of thorium with electrometallurgical pyroprocessing. The Fluorine design is expected to follow the sodium cooled design by about a decade.

China Begins Construction of a 600 MW Fast Reactor

WNN: China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announces it has broken ground an poured first concrete for a 600 MWe fast reactor in Xiapu, Fujian province. It is scheduled to be complete by 2023.

The CFR-600 is based on a 65 MWe experimental unit which achieved criticality in July 2010 and was connected to the grid in 2011.

The 600 MWe design (IAEA profile PDF file) is considered to be a GEN-IV designs and was developed by the Chinese Institute of Atomic Energy and will use a sodium cooled system. It will be powered by MOX fuel and will have two coolant loops producing steam at 480C / 896F.

There are plans to build a 1000-1200 MWe design that will use a uranium alloy metal fuel. Construction of that unit could start in 2028.

Both designs have active and passive shutdown systems and passive decay heat removal.

Taisahn 1 EPR Startup Delayed to 2018

WNN: Areva’s First 1600 MWe EPR in China, the Taishan 1, has completed its hot functional tests according to China General Nuclear, but startup has been delayed until mid-2018. CGN did not provide specifics on the reason for the delay other than to say that additional verification of equipment and systems was needed which will result in the delay.

CGN said that Taisahn 2 is expected to start in 2019, but that date may change based on progress towards completion of installing all equipment and the results of system testing of the reactor in cold and hot modes.

Taishan 1 is the third Areva EPR to approach revenue service the others being units at Olkiluoto 3 in Finland which began hot function tests in December and Flamanville 3 in France which is conducting cold functional tests.

Russia to Build Fast Reactor Fuel Plant for Brest-OD-300 Reactor

WNN: Russia plans to start a nuclear fuel fabrication plant for its lead-cooled Brest-OD-300 reactor. The Siberian Chemical Combine (SCC), a subsidiary of TVEL, the nuclear fuel manufacturing unit of Rosatom, said the plant will be located in Tomsk, Siberia, one of Russia’s so-called “nuclear cities.”

The decision to proceed is part of a larger effort that also includes construction of a 300 MW fast reactor and a spent fuel reprocessing facility, in addition to the fuel fabrication unit.

The BREST-OD(ODEK)-300 is part of Rosatom’s effort to develop a closed nuclear fuel cycle using Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) fuel derived from the uranium and plutonium in spent nuclear fuel from light water reactors.

According to WNN, Alexander Rodovikov, Director of Fuel Fabrication at SCC, said the equipment to fabricate the fuel had been delivered to the plant.  Nuclear Engineering International Magazine reported on Jan 2, 2018 that in late November, equipment was delivered for sintering fuel pellets.

The equipment included a unique sintering furnace lined with zirconium oxide and equipped with heating elements from tungsten. The complex is fully automated and equipped with a high-temperature furnace. Furnace equipment is manufactured by Sosny LLC (Dimitrovgrad, Ulyanovsk region) together with the French specialists of ECM Technologies.

Last year at this time there were reports that the reactor that will use the fuel was scheduled to begin construction in 2020, but that the reactor project was postponed to 2018 the Russian business daily Kommersant reported in January 2017.

It is not clear how far along the procurement of components for the reactor is in terms of lining up suppliers. The cost of the reactor is also an issue and questions were raised at the time whether Rosatom can afford to build it given overall budget pressures and the state of the Russian economy. There have not been any English language updates on the progress of the reactor itself since 2017.

The World Nuclear Association reported in its most recent update of reactor technology in Russia that the reactor commissioning is expected in 2022. A budget of $809 million has been allocated for the reactor and $550 million for the fuel cycle facilities.


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6 Comments on "Recent Developments in Advanced Reactors in China, Russia"

  1. Go Speed Racer on Tue, 9th Jan 2018 12:26 am 

    Yeeee Hawwww!
    Thorium fuel cycle, that’s the way to do it!
    Better than sofa fires in the backyard.

    So only the communist Chinese can innovate anymore.
    The USA ceases all innovation because swindling smirking
    lying business creeps like Mitt Romney, John Roberts, Mitch McConnell, and Donald Trump took over,
    stole all the money and only extract more and more
    money for themselves.

    They don’t allow any innovation because they don’t
    know what that is.

  2. jjhman on Tue, 9th Jan 2018 11:44 am 

    Just so we don’t get all tumescent about these wonderful, brand spanking new technological concepts the first two reactors with TRISO fuel were at Peach Bottom in 1966 and Ft. Saint Vrain in 1974.

    Obviously both were fabulously successful, thus the current enthusiasm for the concept.

    Smirk. I was there.

  3. Antius on Tue, 9th Jan 2018 12:31 pm 

    The Chinese economic strategy seems to be all about pouring borrowed money into infrastructure and R&D projects, any that they can think of and hoping that the productivity improvement will be greater than the cost of the loan. Apparently, that ceased to be the case around 2008. At around this time, Chinese exports peaked due to the global recession.

    Since then, they have been burning loan money at a much greater rate than they can recoup with economic expansion, for the simple reason that no one can afford their goods and more investment no longer equates to more income.

    They do not appear to have a Plan B. Their attempts at gold backed Yuan, are not so much an attempt to challenge US hegemony as they are a desperate attempt to prevent massive devaluation due to capital flight from the country. Unfortunately, the underlying problem driving devaluation only keeps getting worse. There is only so far a country can go in dumping borrowed money into infrastructure before it stops paying.

  4. drwater on Tue, 9th Jan 2018 12:35 pm 

    Actually, the light water thorium breeder in Pennsylvania was successful, but cheap uranium and industrial inertia kept the ordinary LWRs as the standard. I still think the molten salt reactors are really interesting and have potential.

  5. Antius on Tue, 9th Jan 2018 1:23 pm 

    “Actually, the light water thorium breeder in Pennsylvania was successful, but cheap uranium and industrial inertia kept the ordinary LWRs as the standard. I still think the molten salt reactors are really interesting and have potential.”

    The problem with the MSR is demonstrating that the reactor vessel can contain a mixture of over 200 different actinide and fission product fluorides without excessive corrosion for a period of decades.

    If you go to the expense of developing and building these things and the reactor vessels only last 20 years, then the economics of your investment takes a major hit. It puts all other technical advantages of the MSR in the shade.

    This is why other countries are cautious about pouring billions into this concept, when we already have long-term materials data for light-water reactors, gas cooled reactors and sodium fast reactors. All of these things have their pros and cons, but in most cases there are fewer technical uncertainties.

  6. djysrv on Tue, 9th Jan 2018 9:32 pm 

    Readers of this site are reminded that this post was published here without permission. There is no syndication agreement with Oil Price and simply putting the link at the bottom of the full text is not in compliance with the fair use provisions of the copyright laws of the U.S.

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