22 August 2014

First Reactor Grid Connection in Fuqing, China

First Reactor Grid Connection in Fuqing, China

22 August 2014

The first reactor at Fuqing was connected to the grid on 20 August 2014, according to the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). This is the second Chinese reactor to start operating in 2014, after Ningde-2, that was connected to the grid in January, but only the third one in the world. Argentina started up its Atucha-2 unit in June 2014, after 33 years of construction.

Construction of the Fuqing unit 1 CPR-1000 reactor began in November 2008 and it is expected to begin commercial operation in November. The plan is for six CPR-1000’s at the Fuqing site, located on the coast of Fujian Province. Construction and operation of the plant is a joint effort between CNNC (51 percent), China Huadian Corp (39 percent) and the Fujian Investment and Development Co. Ltd (10 percent).

Fuqing unit 2 is expected to begin operation in September 2014, with units 3 and 4 planned for operation in February 2016 and March 2017 respectively. Construction of units 5 and 6 has yet to begin.

The CPR-1000 design has been described as obsolete by the U.S. Government; in 2010, Bernard Bigot, chairman of France’s Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), stated that the CPR-1000 does not meet key safety criteria” in particular because it doesn’t have a double protective shell surrounding the reactor building”. Worldwide the CPR-1000 is by far the most prolific reactor design currently under construction, with 16 in China. This Generation-II reactor is a modified version of the Framatome CPO/CP1/CP2 series of 900 MW reactors, which were built in France between 1971 and 1987 (34 units in total). While modifications were made through the 900 series, in the words of French utility EDF, the largest nuclear utility in the world: “Simply speaking, the equipments inside the plants of the same series are identical and they are laid out in the same manner." The original design had been supplied to France under license from Westinghouse. In the 1980’s, Framatome/AREVA secured contracts for the building of the 900 series in China. The China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Corporation or CGNPC, which is part-owned by the State controlled China National Nuclear Corp, then adapted the design and labelled it the CPR-1000, described as a Generation II+ design.

Very little detailed design, supply chain and construction information is publicly available on the CPR-1000 reactors, including the robustness of regulatory inspection. In February 2014 a possible explanation for the lack of information being shared by China’s regulator with their French counterparts was provided by a commissioner of the French nuclear safety authority (ASN), that they are “overwhelmed” by the scale of China’s nuclear development. In June 2014, the workings of the Chinese nuclear safety regulator was described by a Hong Kong based think tank as “a total black box... with no transparency.”