Construction of World's First Demonstration High-Temperature Nuclear Reactor Begins in China
December 17, 2012 • 11:06AM

Last week, China's National Nuclear Safety Administration granted a permit for the Shandong province modular nuclear power plant project to proceed to construction. This will be the world's first commercial demonstration plant for a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) using pebble bed technology, which technology was developed in Germany. The German 300-MW demo plant at the Juelich nuclear research center operated from 1985-1988, and a similar U.S. HTGR project at Fort St. Vrain in Colorado was built. Both were discontinued during the heyday of anti-nuclear political sabotage in the 1980s. South Africa, the only other nation to work on pebble bed technology, cancelled its program in 2010.

HTGR technology development has been underway at Beijing's Tsinghua University, which is investing 20% of the projected $478 million cost. The first two small modules are expected to come on line in 2016. Together, they will produce 210 MW of electricity, and are to be the first set of what will later be 18 HTGR modules at the site, comprising 3,800 MW of electric capacity.

High-temperature gas-cooled reactors are one example of so-called fourth generation nuclear technologies, which involve using gas turbines rather than steam turbines to create power, which are safer and more efficient. They produce a higher temperature heat, which also improves efficiency, and also enables desalination, chemical processing, and other applications unavailable using today's water-cooled nuclear reactors.

Schiller Institute delegations led by Helga Zepp-LaRouche visited the Tshinghua University experimental reactor site several times during the 1990s, and this technology was featured in EIR's 1997 Eurasian Landbridge report.

According to World Nuclear News, the SLG Group in Germany will supply 500,000 graphite-coated fuel spheres by the end of next year for the modules, and Duke Energy in the U.S. will train the nuclear power plant staff.