A nuclear reactor at the centre of an $8bn US-Chinese partnership and technology transfer agreement has delivered its first electricity to the Chinese grid, even as the countries square off in a looming trade war that threatens to derail future co-operation and stall US efforts to reboot its nuclear industry. The Sanmen nuclear power plant, designed by Westinghouse, is the first in a series of AP1000 reactors that China agreed to license and build in a deal signed in 2006. As part of the arrangement, SNPTC, the Chinese state nuclear group that partnered with Westinghouse, was allowed to build smaller or bigger reactors that they could then export as Chinese technology. In theory, this would have allowed the country to build a nuclear power export industry. The agreement also included developing a supply chain of nuclear components on the back of more reactors being built. This was supposed to help spur a revival of nuclear reactor construction in the US, a sector which has withered since the 1979 Three Mile Island disaster. But the looming trade war has dealt a blow to that original vision, with nuclear reactor parts listed among the Chinese exports threatened by US tariffs. Delays in constructing the first four pilots for Westinghouse’s design also allowed CNNC and CGN, China’s two established nuclear power conglomerates, to propose their own models to fill the gap. These have now been integrated into the Hualong 1 reactor design, which Chinese premier Li Keqiang has described as a “calling card” for China’s manufacturing prowess even though they have yet to win any competitive international tenders. Work on two US reactors, meanwhile, has been shelved, with Toshiba, Westinghouse’s parent group, writing down about $9bn in losses related to the projects.
FT 2nd July 2018 read more »
The Chinese nuclear program scored a double world first in the space of 24 hours, when on 29 June 2018 Taishan-1, the first European/Evolutionary Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR), was connected to the grid, followed on 30 June 2018 by Sanmen-1, the first AP1000. The startup of these reactors marks an important milestone in the Chinese nuclear program, but they also highlight the overall failure of the nuclear industry’s claims and ambitions for the EPR and AP1000 global expansion. The construction of Taishan-1 began in 2009, whilst that of Taishan-2 began in 2010. Both reactors, at that time, were due online in 2013. While successfully achieving grid connection, the Taishan EPR-project has experienced major delays, cost increases, and there remain major unresolved safety issues. Initially the delays at Taishan were due to the knock-on effects from the major delays in the AREVA EPR projects at Olkiluoto in Finland (construction start in 2005) and Flamanville in France (construction start in 2007). However, further delays emerged as result of disclosures of problems in the steel material used in the construction of parts of the pressure vessel, including top and bottom heads, at the Flamanville EPR. Sanmen-1 is the first of a fleet of four new AP1000 plants in eastern China. All four have experienced delays and cost overruns.
World Nuclear Industry Status Report 1st July 2018 read more »