Friday, March 30, 2007
China has built a pebble bed reactor
HTR-10 at China's Tsinghua University
China's Tsinghua University has built a 10 MW research pebble bed reactor, achieving criticality in 2000. HTR-10 stands for High Temperature gas-cooled Reactor of 10 Megawatts heat output. It is cooled by helium gas. The helium gas today powers a steam generator. Currently the faculty and students are designing a power conversion unit to be driven directly by the hot helium. This unit will incorporate helium compressors and turbines with active magnetic bearings and a compact heat exchanger.
Tsinghua University and MIT collaborate on the development of this pebble bed reactor.
Australia exports uranium to China. The Australian Broadcasting Company recently interviewed Professor Zhang Zuoyi about the HTR-10 pebble bed reactor in China. During the visit the reactor helium cooling system was purposefully shut down to demonstrate the intrinsic, passive safety of the pebble bed reactor. You can see this on the video available on the ABC web site.
Demonstration plant for 19 pebble bed reactors
China has ambitious plans for pebble bed reactor nuclear power. According to MIT Professor Andrew Kadak China will build a 190 megawatt demonstration reactor power plant at Rongcheng. If successful, a total of 19 pebble bed reactors generating 3,600 megawatts will be constructed at that site.
China is not just waiting for pebble bed reactor nuclear power. China already operates 10 nuclear power reactors, with 7 under construction. Additionally China just signed a $6-7 billion contract with Westinghouse to build four AP-1000 advanced pressure water reactors generating 1,000 megawatts each. [This works out to $1,360 per kilowatt capital cost, below the design goal of the US NGNP project.] Westinghouse is a Pittsburgh company owned by Toshiba.
Shortly thereafter, China signed an agreement with France's Areva for two more nuclear power plants.