Contract for recycled fuel for Chinese Candus

08 August 2018

Canada's SNC-Lavalin is to supply its 37M Natural Uranium Equivalent (NUE) fuel to units 1 and 2 of the Qinshan Phase III nuclear power plant in China's Zhejiang province. The engineering service contract and a licensing agreement mark the first commercial use of the fuel - a mixture of depleted and recycled uranium - outside Canada.

The two Candu 6 reactors that make up Qinshan Phase III (Image: SNC-Lavalin)

SNC-Lavalin said its work under the contract - signed with China National Nuclear Corporation subsidiary Third Qinshan Nuclear Power Company (TQNPC) - includes design definition, design verification, update of reactor nuclear design and safety case, regulatory support and licensing.

Candu pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) are usually fuelled with natural uranium. Since 2008, Canada and China have proven, through an in-core irradiation demonstration in the Qinshan Phase III Candu 6 reactors, that NUE fuel can be used successfully as a natural uranium substitute. The first commercial demonstration of the use of fuel containing recovered uranium from used pressurised water reactor (PWR) fuel was in Qinshan Phase III unit 1. In March 2010, 12 NUE fuel bundles were inserted into the reactor, followed by a further 24 such fuel bundles. The trial use of the fuel ran for one year.

In August 2012, SNC-Lavalin subsidiary Candu Energy, the TQNPC, China North Nuclear Fuel Corporation and the Nuclear Power Institute of China agreed to expand their joint project to demonstrate the use of NUE fuel at the Qinshan plant.

SNC-Lavalin says that only a few changes are required to current operating Candu reactor designs, safety parameters and licensing case to use NUE as a substitute for natural uranium.

Sandy Taylor, the company's president for nuclear, said: "The landmark agreement between SNC-Lavalin and TQNPC will see the 37M fuel technology put into commercial use outside of Canada for the first time and takes advantage of the ample supply of depleted and recycled uranium in China."

He added, "A step closer to closing the fuel cycle, 37M technology enables better use of alternative fuels in existing Candu reactors. The two Qinshan Candu reactors are already two of the best performing reactors in China and adding 37M NUE fuel further improves their ability to continue to deliver that high performance."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News