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China’s first privately-run, non-enterprise nuclear power research institute launched in Yantai

2016-11-29

A new research and development center for nuclear power, China’s first privately-run, non-enterprise nuclear power research institute, was officially inaugurated on Nov 29, at the 2016 nuclear power industry forum in Yantai, east China’s Shandong province.

The Yantai R&D center was led by the Yantai municipal government and jointly set up by the China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN), the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), the State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC) and the Yantai Taihai Group. Influential representatives of enterprises and universities, academicians, experts and scholars in the nuclear power industry will serve as experts at the center, which will begin with the opening of 10 research institutes.

Aspiring to claim technological high ground

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, innovation has been a new normal in economic and social development.

On Nov 17, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang presided over a meeting of the National Energy Commission, which reviewed and approved the Guideline for Energy Development for the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20). At the meeting, Li called for energy production’s capacity optimization as well as expansion focusing on a safe and efficient development of nuclear energy. Calling for accelerating technological innovation in the energy sector, he underlined efforts in boosting mass entrepreneurship and innovation. He also encouraged further spurring the creativity and tapping the innovation potential of employees at energy enterprises and research institutes, in order to foster more energy technology advantages and translate them into economic advantages.

The Yantai nuclear power R&D center was officially launched to be China’s first nuclear power R&D institute run by a private entity in a non-enterprise model during the 2016 nuclear power industry forum and the sixth executive council’s meeting of the CGN joint research center for independent development of nuclear equipment.

Its launch is an active response to China’s innovation-driven development strategy, and to implement the spirit of the national conference on science and technology alongside plans approved by the State Council (such as the Development Plan for the Shandong Peninsula Blue Economic Zone and the “Made in China 2025” blueprint) and push China’s nuclear power industry toward an “innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared” development.

Highlighting its privately-run, non-enterprise feature, the Yantai nuclear power R&D center adopts a director responsibility system under the leadership of the decision-making executive council. Moreover, the center invites influential representatives of enterprises and universities, academicians, experts and scholars in the nuclear power industry to sit on its expert committee.

The center’s first 10 research institutes will be co-built by research institutes affiliated to the CGN, the CNNC and the SPIC and local enterprises under the Yantai Taihai Group. Research will focus on fields including comprehensive utilization of nuclear energy, nuclear-grade equipment and materials, radiation protection and large-capacity energy storage, Internet of Things management and smart data, water treatment at nuclear power plants, thermal management of industrial equipment, structural materials for fast reactors, comprehensive utilization of marine energy, and basic research in thorium molten salt reactors (TMSR).

Shu Guogang, director of the Yantai nuclear power R&D center, said their efforts will center on the independently-developed HPR1000 third-generation nuclear power technology, with the aim to turn Yantai into a demonstration base for the R&D of the HPR1000 technology.

The center will also engage in the R&D of key technologies including the self-owned CAP1400 nuclear technology and those in the fields of small modular reactors and new energy to forge a “double-innovation” platform for both technologies and products in the nuclear power sector and an innovation demonstration base. The center aspires to realize the integration of China-developed nuclear power technologies in Yantai to make the city a north China nuclear power base, claim the technological high ground in this field worldwide and serve as a bridgehead for China’s nuclear power industry to reach international markets.

Zhang Huazhu, chairman of the China Nuclear Energy Association, hailed the launch of the Yantai center as an innovation of existing nuclear power R&D systems, which will provide a new development model for the whole industry.

According to him, the Yantai center has set up an open and shared platform for R&D and entrepreneurships, and is an exploration of the Chinese nuclear power industry’s innovation potential. By taking advantage of this platform, a market-oriented innovation system that endorses enterprises as the mainstay and integrates policy, industry, education, research and application may be put in place so that R&D and innovation can evolve into an open market, which may effectively resolve the two major issues of upstream and downstream markets and resources faced by the nuclear power industry and also dovetail quality resources.

Innovation expected in compensation, spending, R&D systems

Yantai, located in the north of the Shandong Peninsula, is an important node along the Bohai Bay Economic Rim as well as a strategic pillar city in the Belt and Road region. It boasts beautiful environment and rich resources, and has been picked by the World Bank as one of the Chinese cities with the best investment environment.

Also, Yantai has a solid industrial foundation. In 2015, prime operating revenues of the city’s industrial enterprises above designated size totaled 1.5 trillion yuan ($218 billion), ranked ninth among China’s large and medium-sized cities. In the first three quarters of 2016, prime operating revenues and profits of Yantai-based industrial enterprises above designated size took the top position in Shandong province. The city’s industrial enterprises above designated size saw their total value added grow by 9.05 percent, 2.33 percentage points higher than the provincial level and 3.05 percentage points higher than the national level.

According to Zhang Jiefei, deputy director of the nuclear power office of the Yantai development and reform commission, Yantai has established its nuclear power industrial system since 2009 thanks to the construction of the Haiyang nuclear power project. So far, the city has built two provincial nuclear power equipment manufacturing parks in Laishan and Haiyang, and developed certain R&D and production capabilities in the fields of primary piping of nuclear power plants, manufacturing of seawater-circulating pump impellers, containment systems for nuclear power plants and nuclear island refrigeration systems.

Paying high attention to the development of the nuclear power industry, the Yantai municipal government has rolled out guidelines on accelerating the sector’s growth, which sets the target of forging nuclear power industry clusters. The local government also attaches great importance to the Yantai nuclear power R&D center and offers a package of preferential policies in talent introduction, tax exemption, subsidies, protection of intellectual property rights, and long-term incentives for researchers through enhanced property rights of scientific and technological achievements.

As China’s first new-type research institute in the nuclear power field, the Yantai nuclear power R&D center has successfully integrated State-owned enterprises with private capital and technological R&D with the industry’s growth, thus having put in place apparently advantageous systems and mechanisms – in particular, a series of innovations have been made in its compensation system, funding system and management system for R&D research programs,” said Jiang Zhonger, head of Yantai’s development and reform commission. “Through setting up an open and shared platform, the Yantai center will fully absorb R&D forces and capital from private entities and also rely on the R&D systems of the CGN, the CNNC and the SPIC to help push forward an innovation-driven development of China’s nuclear power technology.”

Experts predict that by 2030 the Bohai Bay Economic Rim will see a nuclear market estimated at 1 trillion yuan. The construction, operation and maintenance of relevant projects will bring valuable market opportunities for the Yantai center.

CGN President Zhang Shanming said that Yantai, a city full of vitality and ready to spur innovation and an important pillar city for the national strategy under the Belt and Road Initiative, has a good industrial foundation and advantageous geographical position for developing nuclear power and related technologies and industries.

He believed that the construction of the nuclear power R&D center in Yantai will further boost the growth of China’s nuclear power industry and inject vitality into the R&D of cutting-edge nuclear power technologies as represented by the HPR1000, which will lead to newer, more competitive products that will support China’s domestically-developed nuclear power technologies, equipment and standards to go global.