China's HTGR fuel production line starts up

29 March 2016

A pilot production line of fuel elements for China's Shidaowan HTR-PM - a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) demonstration project - has started in Baotou, Inner Mongolia.

HTR fuel element production line - 460 (CNNC)
The pilot HTGR fuel production line (Image: CNNC)

The first tank of uranium dioxide powder was slowly poured into the dissolution tank on 27 March, marking formal entry into production of the HTGR fuel line, China National Nuclear Corporation announced the following day. Earlier this month, the National Nuclear Security Administration approved an operating licence for the fuel production line.

The production line will have an annual capacity of 300,000 spherical fuel elements. The National Nuclear Security Administration issued a permit for its construction in February 2013 and an opening ceremony was held the following month. The installation of equipment was completed in September 2014.

The Institute for Nuclear and New Energy Technology (INET) at Tsinghua University has conducted research on HTGR fuel element technology over the past 30 years. It developed a trial production line with an annual capacity of 100,000 spherical fuel elements. The new, larger production line is based on that technology. INET has supplied specialized equipment for three main processes involved in the production of the HTR's spherical fuel elements: manufacturing, aging, washing and drying equipment for uranium dioxide; fuel pellet coating equipment; and, a press for forming the spherical fuel elements.

The fuel produced by the pilot plant will be used by the demonstration HTR-PM high-temperature gas-cooled reactor plant being built at Shidaowan, near Weihai city in Shandong province. This will initially comprise twin HTR-PM reactor modules driving a single 210 MWe steam turbine. Construction started in late 2012, with commercial operation scheduled in 2017.

Qualification irradiation tests of fuel elements for the demonstration HTR-PM were completed in December last year at the High Flux Reactor at Petten in the Netherlands. INET requires qualification of its fuel to support licensing of the HTR-PM reactor systems.

A proposal to construct two 600 MWe HTR plants - each featuring three twin reactor modules and turbine units - at Ruijin city in China's Jiangxi province passed a preliminary feasibility review in early 2015. The design of the Ruijin HTRs is based on the smaller Shidaowan demonstration HTR-PM. Construction of the Ruijin reactors is expected to start next year, with grid connection in 2021.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News