China to Bring New Nuke Reactors to Service


Though hindered by the Japan nuclear crisis, China's first AP1000 nuclear power reactor is expected to come into operation by the scheduled time of 2013, a Chinese nuclear company executive said in Beijing Saturday.

Wang Binghua, board chairman of the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC), said construction progress of the country's third-generation nuclear reactors is generally "under control".

The country started to construct its first third-generation pressurized water reactors in 2009, which were also the world's first to use AP1000 technologies developed by US-based Westinghouse.

Construction progress has slowed down after a massive earthquake and tsunami caused devastation and sparked a nuclear power crisis in Japan last March, causing delays of six to twelve months for the reactors under construction in China's coastal areas, according to Wang.

Wang also attributed the delays to Westinghouse's design adjustments during construction and a stricter construction requirement for endurance concerns.

It has also taken more time for the construction and management staff to adapt to the construction methods of third-generation reactors, he added.

But Wang said with optimized construction schedule and enhanced supervision over equipment, he was confident to bring the No.1 Unit of the Sanmen Nuclear Power Project in China's east Zhejiang Province, one of the reactors under construction, into operation in 2013.

Wang also noted that designers of the projects have strengthened safety evaluation after the Japan crisis.

"Both the SNPTC and Westinghouse has agreed that the new reactors are able to survive the same shock experienced by the Japanese plant," he said. The two companies are still mulling over further efforts to ensure nuclear safety.

Jack Allen, Westinghouse's president of Asia, said the company has also gained regulatory permit to build nuclear stations using AP1000 technologies with the approval from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission for its 19th revision of the AP1000 design control document(DCD).

China's own version of the AP1000 design, known as the CAP1000, is also one the way, according to the SNPTC.

"The transfer of key technologies and software from the Westinghouse has been completed," said the company.

According to Wang, 55 percent of the four reactor units under construction were made up with domestic equipment, and he expected that the country's fifth unit will be total domestic production.

Chinese designers are also working on an updated version of the AP1000 technologies, or the CAP1400 system, he said.

Initial designs of the CAP1400 has been completed by the end of last year, and will be examined by government experts in May this year, Wang said.

China has suspended the approval process for nuclear power stations so that safety standards can be revised after explosions at the Fukushima plant, the government announced in March last year.

"The revision will not change the country's nuclear power development plan, but to build a more solid foundation and convince the public of its safety and economical efficiency," Wang said.

Chinese nuclear safety authorities had completed and submitted reports on nuclear safety and nuclear power development, and the State Council is soon to review these reports and draw clear guidelines for the country's future nuclear power development, he said.

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