China / Innovation

China makes nuclear power progress

(Xinhua) Updated: 2012-10-31 19:54

BEIJING - China has built its first experimental fast neutron reactor which will help make better use of the nuclear energy.

The reactor passed official checks on Wednesday after 20 years of developments by Chinese scientists, according to the China Institute of Atomic Energy

Experts organized by the Ministry of Science and Technology conducted examinations on the reactor, the CIAE said.

The experimental fast neutron reactor is regarded as a major breakthrough in China's three-step strategy in developing its nuclear power, namely, from pressurized water reactor, fast neutron reactor, to fusion reactor.

Dubbed as China Experimental Fast Reactor, the development makes China one of a few countries in the world that has experimental, power-generating fast reactors, according to the CIAE.

The experimental fast neutron reactor, with nuclear heat power of 65 megawatts and a power-generating capacity of 20 megawatts, is a large fast reactor power plant in terms of layout and reference. Its safety requirements have reached those of a fourth-generation nuclear power plant.

According to the CIAE, fast neutron reactor is a major type of fourth-generation nuclear power plant, and it sets the direction for the development of such power plants.

A fast reactor can make better use of nuclear energy by increasing the utilization rate of uranium to 60 percent, from the 1 percent utilization rate of a traditional pressurized water reactor.

Fast reactor technology can also minimize radioactive discharge and raise security levels of the nuclear energy system.

CIAE president Wan Gang said the fast reactor was developed, set up, operated and managed independently by Chinese professionals.

"China has got patents for many innovation achievements and cultivated its own research and development capabilities and expertise via the building of the experimental fast neutron reactor," he said.

"As an advanced and large sci-tech research and development platform, the experimental fast reactor will boost technological progress in the field and contribute to sustainable development of nuclear power in both China and the world," he said.

Initiated in 1992, the fast-reactor program has been jointly organized by the Ministry of Science and Technology, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, and the China National Nuclear Corporation, while the CIAE has carried out the program in collaboration with hundreds of universities, research institutions and enterprises.

In May 2009, the experimental neutron fast reactor conducted its heat debug operation and it reached its first nuclear criticality on July 21, 2010. It generated electricity that goes into the grid for the first time on July 22, 2011.

Chinese scientists are now engaged in developing key technologies, such as demonstration fast reactor and mixed-oxide nuclear fuel, in order to develop commercial fast reactors and set up a recycled nuclear fuel system, the CIAE said.