By Charles F Moreira, Editor
China’s first nuclear reactor using its entirely domestically developed Hualong One third-generation reactor technology began commercial operation in Fujian Province on 30 January 2021, according to a Xinhua video on the New China TV You Tube channel.
The Hualong One (HPR1000) pressurised water nuclear reactor technology was jointly developed by the state-owned China General Nuclear Power Group (CGNPG) and the state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), the latter which oversees all aspects of China’s civilian and military nuclear programmes.
During its construction, the CNNC joined hands with 58 state-owned enterprises, over 140 private firms, over 5,000 companies along the supply chain and made breakthroughs in the manufacture of 411 pieces of core equipment.
Construction of Unit 5 began in May 2015 and it meets all design standards and greatly improves the competitiveness of China nuclear industry and Hualong One technology has more than 700 patents, 120 software copyrights, all of its 411 core parts were designed and made domestically, it has both active and passive safety features, including double-containment, which meet the highest safety standards for nuclear power plants and it has an operational lifespan of 60 years, according to the CNNC.
The reactor generates 10 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year and can serve millions of customers. It also cuts carbon emissions by 8.16 million tons per annum, which helps China in its goal to become carbon neutral by 2060.
Nuclear power currently accounts for a mere five percent of China’s primary source of electricity generation and the lowest proportion, whilst coal which is abundantly available in China accounts for around 60% – the largest proportion, and China aims for its carbon emissions to peak in 2030 and is rapidly increasing the proportion of nuclear power in its energy mix.
The new Hualong One reactor installed as Unit 5 at the Fuqing Nuclear Power Plant in Fuqing, Fujian Province in South-East China has freed China from reliance on foreign technology for its nuclear reactors, is a key objective in the Made in China 2025 plan and places China amongst the ranks of advanced countries using nuclear power.
Meanwhile, a second Hualong One-technology based reactor – i.e. Unit 6, is currently under construction at the same plant in Fuqing and is planned to to be commissioned by the end of 2021.
Other Hualong One reactors under construction in China are Fangchenggang 3 and 4 in Guangxi, the Zhangzhou 1 and 2 in Fujian, the Taipingling 1 and 2 in Guangdong, and San’Ao 1 and 2 in Zhejiang.
Outside China, five Hualong One reactors are planned for Pakistan, four of which will be at Karachi Nuclear Power Complex. On 23 December 2019, CNNC announced that it had successfully installed the containment dome of the K2 unit in Karachi, the first Hualong One unit outside China. The fifth reactor in Pakistan will be at the Chashma Nuclear Power Plant.
Construction of another Hualong One reactor was planned to begin Argentina in 2020 but negotiations are still in progress this year.
CGNPG and CNNC form a joint venture – Hualong International Nuclear Power Technology Co, officially launched in March 2016 to promote Hualong One further afield in overseas markets.
On 19 January 2017 the United Kingdom Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) started their Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process for the Hualong One, expected to be completed this year (2021), in advance of possible deployment at the Bradwell nuclear power station site.
On 16 November 2017 the ONR and the Environment Agency announced they had progressed to the next phase of their GDA of the UK HPR1000 reactor, which would take about 12 months from that date. The whole UK HPR1000 GDA process is expected to be completed in about five years or around January 2022.
The world’s biggest energy consumer, China was once reliant upon nuclear reactor technologies from France, the United States, Russia and Canada. With the current trade war with the United States, it has become more difficult for China to obtain transfer of nuclear reactor technology.
China’s nuclear power industry began with the establishment of the CNNC in 1955, when China tried to technology to build a large-scale nuclear power plant and needed to import even floor tiles, cement and telephone wires.
Hualong One is based upon the CGNPG’s ACPR-1000 and the CNNC’s ACP-1000 designs. The ACPR-1000 is evolved from the second-generation CPR-1000 based upon the French 900 MWe (megawatt electric) three cooling loop design (M310) imported from France in the 1990s.
The second CPR-100 unit built comprised 70% of its equipment manufactured in China, with a 90% Chinese content target for later builds.
On 15 December 1991, China’s first nuclear power reactor, a 288 MWe PWR at the Qinshan Nuclear Power Plant, was connected to the grid. It is of type CNP-300, a pressurised water nuclear reactor developed by the CNNC and is China’s first commercial nuclear reactor design.
The CNP-300 had a thermal capacity of 999 MW and a gross electrical capacity of 325 MW, with a net output of about 300 MWe. Development of the CNP-300 began in the 1970s, based on a nuclear submarine reactor design.
The CNCC’s ACP-1000 third-generation design (Hualong One) had passed an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) generic reactor safety review (GRSR) in December 2014, the CNNC said.
According to the IAEA experts who reviewed the reactor design, the safety features of the ACP-1000, use advanced nuclear power technology which meet safety requirements. The design had been validated through detailed experiments and is safe and reliable, the IAEA concluded.