China starts construction of its first small modular reactor
- Using a home-grown design, Linglong One will be the world’s first onshore commercial project of its kind
- It is expected to take almost five years to build on the southern island of Hainan
Construction has begun in China’s first small modular reactor demonstration project, its operator announced on Tuesday.
The project will be the world’s first onshore commercial small modular reactor (SMR) and will use a home-grown design, Linglong One (or ACP100), China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) said.
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Linglong One in 2016 became the world’s first SMR to pass a safety review by the International Atomic Energy Agency. It is expected to take just short of five years to build.
An expert said small reactors could better adapt to smaller grids and planning them was more flexible, although commercialisation remained far away.
“The average unit size of electricity generating plants in modern grid systems has been shrinking dramatically with the massive development of renewable energy technologies,” said Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based nuclear energy consultant. “Smaller units have the advantage to adapt much better to smaller grids.”
CNNC said Linglong One would have many uses besides electricity production, including heating, steam production and seawater desalination. Small reactors are less cost-effective, however.
“From the economic perspective, small reactors can never compete with big reactors,” said Wang Yingsu, secretary general of the China Electric Power Promotion Council’s nuclear power branch.
“The SMRs are losing the economy-of-scale effect,” Schneider said. “The only way to make up for that economic effect is to sell large numbers of SMRs. There is no company in the world that has a commercial product on the shelf.”
He said commercial SMRs would not be available until the 2030s at the earliest.
The country has 50 operable reactors and is building 18 more. It aims by 2025 to expand its nuclear capacity by about 40 per cent from its late-2020 level.