American reactor arrives in China

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 August, 2011, 12:00am


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The first-ever deployment of advanced nuclear-power technology from the United States to China has started in earnest, with the initial delivery made by the Westinghouse Electric Company in Zhejiang.

Westinghouse, the nuclear products and services subsidiary of Japan's Toshiba, announced over the weekend the arrival of its AP1000 nuclear-reactor vessel at the eastern coastal province's Sanmen nuclear power plant.

It represents the first of four AP1000 units purchased in July, 2007 in a landmark deal made by the State Nuclear Power Technology Corp (SNPTC), Sanmen Nuclear Power Company, Shandong Nuclear Power Company, and China National Technical Import and Export.

Westinghouse did not provide the specific financial terms, but that transaction was estimated in the past to be close to US$8 billion. The Pennsylvania-based company, backed by financing from the US Export-Import Bank, won the two-year, competitive bidding process for the project in December 2006.

'All key project milestones of the Sanmen project were met in 2010, and the project continues to work towards successfully completing all 2011 key project milestones this year,' said Deva Chari, the senior vice-president of Westinghouse's nuclear power-plants business unit.

The nuclear reactor vessel, which weighs about 340 tonnes and measures 4.5 metres in diameter by 12.2 metres in length, was manufactured for Westinghouse by Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction at Changwon in South Korea.

Westinghouse had agreed to build four 1,100 MW reactors, based on its advanced AP1000 pressurised-water reactor design, for two nuclear plants each in Zhejiang and Shandong provinces.

The first AP1000 unit at Sanmen 1 in Zhejiang will undergo installation and operational testing before starting commercial operation in late 2013. The remaining three units are expected to come on stream in 2014 and 2015.

Doosan Heavy Industries was contracted by Westinghouse to manufacture the two AP1000 nuclear reactor vessels for Sanmen 1 and the Haiyang 1 nuclear plant in Shandong.

The other nuclear-reactor vessels are being manufactured for Westinghouse by firms in China. China First Heavy Industries was contracted for Sanmen 2 and Shanghai Electric Group for Haiyang 2.

According to a report by the World Nuclear Association (WNA), the international body that promotes the use of nuclear energy, more than 16 provinces and municipalities have announced intentions to build nuclear power plants from this year to 2015 under the 12th Five-Year Plan.

Described by the US department of Energy as a Generation III+ reactor design, the AP1000 contains significantly fewer pumps, pipes, valves and cables, so there are fewer items to maintain than in a traditional plant.

According to Westinghouse, the projected cost for the AP1000 will be between US$1,000 and US$1,200 per kW after the first plants have been built, making the design competitive with both coal and gas-fired plants.

The company also said the design had 'multiple levels of defence for accident mitigation'.

Last November, further contracts were signed between the SNPTC and Westinghouse, including one in which Westinghouse would provide the SNPTC with technical consulting services in the area of research and development.

The SNPTC and Westinghouse announced a two-year extension of their nuclear co-operation agreement in January. This pact focuses on continued deployment of the AP1000 nuclear power-plant design in China, as well as service and maintenance, technology development and strategic investment.

The WNA, however, pointed out that Beijing suspended its approval of new nuclear power-plant projects following the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan in March. Safety checks of operating plants were undertaken immediately, and the review of those under construction is expected to be completed in October.


The number of nuclear reactors that are currently operational in China

- They have a total capacity of 9,100 MW