China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN), China's largest and the world’s fifth-largest nuclear power operator, signed a framework agreement on nuclear power training cooperation with Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board on March 21.
The agreement will boost cooperation between the two countries in technology and business, pave the way for GGN’s Hualong One (HPR1000) reactor technology to enter the African market, and promote China's nuclear equipment abroad.
GGN is one step closer to offering the HPR1000 on the global market, as the company has signed agreements with Electricite de France (EDF) and the UK government, according to CGN Chairman He Yu.
What is HPR1000?
HPR1000 is a third-generation gigawatt-level nuclear reactor jointly developed by CGN and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) with proprietary intellectual property rights.
The new-generation technology features improved safety features, and double containment is adopted for the nuclear core. The inner layer is a pre-stressed concrete structure; its inner surface is covered with steel liner which is designed to prevent leakage. The outer level is a reinforced concrete structure designed to protect against external hazards, such as a plane crash or a shockwave from an explosion.
Global promotion of the HPR1000
The domestic demonstration units of HPR1000 – phase II of Guangxi Fangchenggang Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) began construction in December 2015. As a reference power station for the UK’s Bradwell B (BRB) project, it plays a significant role in China's advanced manufacturing exports.
In addition, Thailand’s Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding Public Co Ltd (Ratch) signed an equity joint venture contract with CGN and Guangxi Investment Group to take a stake in the two HPR1000 reactors being built for the phase II project of Fangchenggang NPP in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
At present Thailand has launched an individual assessment of HPR1000 reactor technology. Meanwhile, the country plans to send a group of technicians to China to study the technology.
Apart from Thailand, other countries such as Kenya, Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey and Kazakhstan have shown great interest in the reactor, with more than 20 overseas companies and government departments having signed memorandums of understanding and letters of intent with CGN.
In January 2017, the UK government started the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) of CGN's HPR1000 reactor, which is expected to be used for the BRB nuclear project in the UK after it passes such GDA.
The GDA, which determines if a new nuclear technology can be used in the UK, is known to be the world’s most rigorous nuclear power safety and viability assessment. At present, only France’s EPR (European pressurized reactor) technology has passed the GDA.
Nuclear energy cooperation between CGN and EDF dates back to the 1980s, when the two sides decided to build China's first gigawatt-level nuclear power plant at Daya Bay. In 2016, the two sides also signed an agreement to invest in three UK nuclear plants: Hinkley Point C (HPC), Sizewell C (SZC) and BRB.
The HPC nuclear power plant is the largest nuclear project in the UK in 20 years, and will use France’s EPR technology. Upon completion, it is expected to satisfy 7 percent of the UK's electricity needs.
There are only four nuclear plants in the world that use EPR technology, and all are currently under construction. Taishan NPP in Guangdong province, one of the four, is expected to generate power this year and will become the first nuclear power plant to operate with EPR technology. It is also an example of the successful Sino-French cooperation on third-generation nuclear technologies.
China’s nuclear standards
Based on 30 years of experience in design, construction and operation of NPP, China has become an important global nuclear equipment manufacturer. Its final goal of developing HPR1000 technology is to promote Chinese nuclear technology around the world.
China is now well prepared for the nuclear power industry to go global, with excess capability, advantages in safe technology, low costs, strong management and highly-skilled workers.
“Formulating and exporting Chinese standards is the road China must take in order to develop one of the world’s leading nuclear power industries,” said He Yu, CGN chairman and member of China’s top political advisory body.
“Setting up an independent nuclear power standard system in accordance with China’s goal to forge a stronger nuclear power industry will help China catch up with industry leaders, keep pace with them and then eventually overtake them,” according to He.
The nuclear power standardization program will be carried out through HPR1000 demonstration projects, including unit 3 at CGN’s Fangchenggang NPP and unit 5 at CNNC’s Fuqing NPP. It will take four years to further improve and optimize existing pressurized water reactor (PWR) technology standards and establish an independent system of PWR technology standards that will be able to satisfy construction needs in China as well as meet overseas demand.
According to He, the PWR technology standards system will comprehensively cover the full life cycle of the nuclear power industry’s chain.
“Our goal is to formulate a set of national and industry standards equivalent to those at international levels,” He added.
The implementation of the standardization program will enable China to take advantage of the critical window to develop its nuclear power industry. It will help China gradually shake off reliance on foreign (French and American) standards and support the country’s nuclear technology and equipment to go global, thus giving China greater influence, the ability to seize the initiative and expand its influence over nuclear power issues.
He expressed his view that besides technology, equipment, services and funding, China should also promote its standards abroad, and ensure China’s voice and influence makes an impact around the world.