3 January 2014

Construction Start on Unit 6 at Yangjiang, China

Pouring of the concrete basemat for the Yangjiang reactor unit 6 began on 23 December, 2013, plant builder China Nuclear Engineering and Construction Corporation (CNECC) reported. Six reactors are currently under construction at the site, located in Guangdong Province, in southern China. Four of these are of the standardized CPR-1000 design, with units 5 and 6 designated ACPR-1000. Safety concerns for the the CPR-1000 persist, as reported here. All the reactors at Yangjiang are scheduled to be in operation by 2018, producing around 6,100 MWe. The ACPR-1000 is an ’enhanced’ version of the CPR-1000, reportedly with higher seismic standards, double containment and a core catcher.

In designating the Yangjiang units 5 and 6, as Generation III, CNECC appears in compliance with the terms of the State Council Nuclear Power Safety Plan announced in October 2012. These revised plans, following the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, specified that all new commercial reactor projects approved for construction in China would be Generation III design.

However, questions remain as to the safety revisions incorporated into the ACPR-1000, the qualification of the design by Chinese regulators and how they compare with their international counterparts. Design work on the ACPR-1000 began in 2009, prior to the Fukushima accident. In mid November 2011, the operator of Yangjiang, China Guangdong Nuclear Power, now China General Nuclear Power Group, revealed the design of the ACPR-1000, including the claim that it had taken into account the “lessons of the Fukushima accident”. That affirmation appears barely credible given that it was pronounced less than six months after the dramatic events started unfolding in Japan. Further, the ACPR-1000 is reported to be in compliance with the latest domestic Code of Safety of Nuclear Power Plant Design, HAF102, which date from 2004. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was requested to conduct a Generic Design Safety Review for the design concept for the ACPR-1000. This was completed in May 2013.

Unease over the safety of nuclear power development in Guangdong is particularly acute in nearby Hong Kong, with historic opposition to nuclear power and most recent protests during 2013 forcing the cancellation of a uranium processing facility. Reassurances that the two latest Yangjiang units are generation III is unlikely to assuage those concerns.