Chinese VVERs start using domestically made fuel

31 August 2010

The first domestically produced VVER fuel assemblies have been loaded into the cores of the Russian-designed units 1 and 2 of the Tianwan nuclear power plant in Jiangsu province, China. 


Tianwan (ASE)
Tianwan Phase I
(Image: AtomStroyExport)
Russian nuclear fuel producer TVEL and Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation (JNPC) signed a contract in December 1997 for the supply of fuel for the initial core loading of Tianwan units 1 and 2, as well as three subsequent reloads for each unit. Since signing the contract, TVEL has produced 638 fuel assemblies for the two VVER-1000 pressurized water reactors (PWRs) at Tianwan. The last batch of fuel to be supplied under that contract was delivered in March.


Fuel for the Tianwan units will now be produced at China National Nuclear Corporation's (CNNC's) main PWR fuel fabrication plant at Yibin, Sichuan province, using technology transferred from TVEL under the fuel supply contract. To enable the manufacture of fuel for the fourth reloads of the units, TVEL signed a contract in 2009 with China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation (CNEIC), an international trading company directly owned by CNNC and authorized to carry out import and export trade of uranium products, nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear power and technology equipment. It subsequently supplied CNNC with billets for use in producing fuel assemblies.


Four VVER-1000 fuel assemblies produced at Yibin, together with a related component, passed an inspection by Russian experts on 1 April, clearing the way for full production of the assemblies to start at the Chinese plant.


The Yibin plant - operated by China Jianzhong Nuclear Fuel (CJNF), a CNNC subsidiary - has now produced its first 54 VVER-1000 fuel assemblies. The assemblies were recently loaded into the Tianwan units during their fourth refuelling.


Tianwan Phase I was constructed under a cooperation agreement between China and Russia - the largest such project ever. The cost is was reported to be $3.2 billion, with China contributing $1.8 billion of this. The first unit was grid connected in May 2006 and put into commercial operation in June 2007. The second was grid connected in May 2007, with commercial operation in August that year.


On 23 March 2010, AtomStroyExport and JNPC signed the framework contract for the second phase of the Tianwan plant. This will comprise two more VVER-1000 units, similar to units 1 and 2. Construction is expected to start in October 2010.


In 2008, the Yibin facility has reached an annual output of 400 tonnes per year of PWR fuel. In July 2010, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence approved a plan to expand production to 800 tonnes per year in order to supply China's rapidly growing nuclear industry. The plant has been manufacturing fuel for China's Qinshan Phase I and Phase II, Daya Bay and Ling Ao nuclear power plants, as well as for Pakistan's Chashma plant. The capacity increase is part of a planned incremental expansion, which CJNF intends to continue. Previously reported figures have suggested that the plant is likely to reach a capacity of 1000 tonnes or more per year by 2020.


CNNC's second fuel fabrication plant at Baotou, Inner Mongolia, makes fuel for the Candu pressurized heavy water reactors at Qinshan Phase III. Although China's goal is ultimately to become self sufficient in nuclear fuel supply, reactor vendor Areva will be providing the first two cores and 17 reloads for the EPR reactors it is building at Taishan. Likewise, Westinghouse will be supplying first cores and some re-loads for the AP1000 reactors it constructing at Sanmen and Haiyang.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News