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China's Neutron Reactor Begins Generating Power

Mon, 07/25/2011 - 4:35am

China's first experimental fast neutron reactor began, for the first time, generating electricity that goes into the grid, general manager Sun Qin of the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced.

The success of the program, dubbed as China Experimental Fast Reactor, is regarded as the first stage for the country to develop its fast neutron breeder reactor, according to a press release by the CNNC.

The experimental fast neutron reactor, with a nuclear heat power of 65 megawatts and a power-generating capacity of 20 megawatts, is among a few experimental, power-generating fast reactors in the world, according to the company.

The reactor is similar, in terms of layout and reference, to a large fast reactor power plant, while its safety requirements have reached those of a fourth-generation nuclear power plant.

"Fast neutron reactor is a major type of fourth-generation nuclear power plant, and it sets the direction for the development of the fourth-generation nuclear power plants," said Xu Mi, chief expert for the experimental fast neutron reactor.

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

In addition, Xu said, the new, fast-reactor technology can minimize the radiative discharge. The development and spread of the new technology is helpful for China to develop a sustainable nuclear power industry and set up an advanced fuel-recycling system, he noted.

After over 20 years of study of the fast-reactor technology, the CNNC is now engaged in developing commercial fast reactors with a capacity of a million megawatts or larger, according to the expert.

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 CNNC, while the China Institute of Atomic Energy has carried out the program in collaboration with hundreds of universities, research institutions and enterprises.

In May of 2009, the experimental neutron fast reactor conducted its heat debug operation, and the reactor reached its first nuclear criticality on July 21, 2010.

Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences

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