Chinese fast reactor nears commissioning

07 April 2009

The installation and adjustment of main equipment for the China Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) has been completed.

Cut-away of the CEFR design (Image: CIAE)

The sodium-cooled, pool-type fast reactor is being constructed with some Russian assistance at the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIEA), near Beijing, which undertakes fundamental research on nuclear science and technology.
The main equipment including reactor safety systems, heat exchangers, reloaders and control devices was installed by Russia's Afrikantov OKBM, which announced the construction milestone.


The air-tightness of CEFR has already been tested. The reactor is set to be filled with sodium in May: it will have 260 tonnes of sodium in the primary loop. Fuel produced by Russia's TVEL will be loaded into the reactor July/August and it is scheduled to be commissioned by the end of 2009.
The thermal power of the CEFR is 65 MW, matched with a 25 MWe turbine generator.
A 600 MWe prototype fast reactor is envisaged by 2020 and there are outline plans for a 1500 MWe version by 2030. In October 2008, the Russian-Chinese Nuclear Cooperation Commission called for construction of an 800 MWe demonstration fast reactor similar to Beloyarsk 4, currently the world's only commercial fast breeder reactor.


Unlike most of the reactors used today for nuclear power generation, fast neutron reactors (FNRs) make maximum use of uranium resources by generating a certain amount more fuel than they consume. They do this by using fast neutrons to 'burn up' uranium and plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, which can be surrounded a uranium 'blanket' in which slightly more plutonium is created than is used. The MOX fuel uses the plutonium recovered when spent fuel, including that from conventional light water reactors, is reprocessed.