Industry experts hail homegrown HTGR nuclear power technology

By ZHENG XIN| (China Daily)| Updated : 2023-12-07

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The Shidaowan high-temperature gas-cooled reactor nuclear power plant in Rongcheng, Shandong province, East China. CHINA DAILY

The Shidaowan high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) nuclear power plant started commercial operations on Dec 6 in Rongcheng, Shandong province, the National Energy Administration and China Huaneng Group, its lead operator, said.

The fourth-generation power plant illustrates China's global leadership in HTGR nuclear energy technology, industry experts said.

The reactor, fully developed by China with independent intellectual property rights, sourced 93.4 percent of its material domestically, China Huaneng Group said.

HTGRs are believed to have broad development prospects because of their inherent safety, versatility and modular construction.

They can maintain a safe state and steer away from meltdowns or leak of radioactive materials even in the event of a complete loss of cooling capacity, without any intervention action, said Zhang Zuoyi, chief designer of the HTGR nuclear power station program, and dean of the nuclear energy and new energy technology institute of Tsinghua University.

The advanced reactor with a fourth-generation nuclear energy system is a key development in the field of nuclear power, Zhang said.

China has been actively developing its nuclear energy in recent years.

According to data released by the China Nuclear Energy Association, the cumulative electricity generation of operating nuclear power units nationwide reached 211.89 billion kilowatt-hours during the first half of this year, accounting for 5.08 percent of total national electricity generation. This is expected to rise to 10 percent by 2035, it said.

The power plant, a joint effort of Huaneng, China National Nuclear Corp and Tsinghua University, kicked off construction in December 2012 and generated power for the first time in December 2021, said Zhang Yanxu, general manager of the project.

Zhang said more than 500 companies majoring in design and development, engineering construction, equipment manufacturing, production and operation participated in the project.

The commercial operation of the nuclear power plant is of great significance in promoting the safety, as well as the scientific, technological and innovation capabilities of China's nuclear power industry, he said.

Compared with third-generation nuclear power technology, the fourth-generation one will improve safety and help reduce construction and operating costs, which in turn will help accelerate the large-scale application of nuclear energy, according to the East China Electric Power Design Institute Co Ltd under the China Power Engineering Consulting Group.