Employees watch the first fuel assembly being successfully loaded on to a reactor at a nuclear power plant in Fuqing, Fujian province, on Sept 4. (Photo: Xinhua)
Fuel assembly loading activities at Fuqing nuclear power plant, China's first nuclear facility using Hualong One technology－a domestically developed third-generation reactor design－are expected to accelerate China's nuclear power construction despite the impact of COVID-19, said insiders.
China National Nuclear Corp recently announced that it has begun to load fuel at the No 5 nuclear power unit in Fuqing, Fujian province, bringing the unit one step closer to formal operations.
After the successful installation of the first group of fuel assemblies and nuclear commissioning officially started, the unit is expected to start operations by the end of this year, said Beijing-based CNNC.
The Ministry of Ecology and Environment issued a license for the operation of unit 5 at the Fuqing plant to CNNC Fujian Fuqing Nuclear Power Co Ltd on Sept 4. Fuel loading began the same day.
Xiao Xinjian, an industry expert with the Energy Research Institute affiliated with the National Development and Reform Commission, said the fuel loading of Fuqing unit 5 is a major step toward its official launch.
The Hualong One reactors, jointly designed by China General Nuclear Power Group and CNNC, are much safer compared with the safety levels of current projects, and their operation and application will substantially improve the safety level of nuclear power in the country, Xiao said.
CNNC said the Hualong One, with 177 fuel assemblies, will improve the design safety levels.
The construction team also fully considered the differences in the layout and quantity of the core fuel components of the reactor, carried out the first batch of loading exercises, optimized the loading sequence and ensured the smooth progress of the first nuclear fuel loading of the world's first Hualong One reactor, it said.
"As part of its advanced technology and design, the operation of Hualong One will greatly boost the development of China's scientific and technological innovation while developing the advanced manufacturing industry," Xiao added.
"The speeding up of the development of the nuclear sector with independent intellectual property rights in China will also lift the proportion of clean energy in the country's energy mix, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and ensuring energy security," he said.
Xiao added that the project will also drive local economic development while stabilizing local employment.
CNNC said the project construction has been progressing steadily, and safety and quality are well under control despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus.
After entering commercial operation in September 2017, the No 1 to No 4 nuclear power units of CNNC's Fuqing project have generated a total of 130 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity so far and have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 105.44 million metric tons compared with power generation using fossil fuels, it said.
Currently, five other Hualong One units are under construction in China. CNNC is building one at Taipingling in Guangdong and two at Zhangzhou in Fujian province. China General Nuclear is building two at its Fangchenggang site in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
In addition, two Hualong One units are under construction in Karachi, Pakistan, while CGN proposes applying the technology at the planned Bradwell NPP in the United Kingdom.
The State Council gave final approval for construction of Fuqing units 5 and 6 in April 2015.The pouring of the first concrete for Fuqing 5 began in May that year, marking the official start of construction of the unit. Construction of unit 6 began in December the same year. The inner dome of unit 5 was installed on the containment building in May 2017, with the outer dome installed in January 2018.
Fuqing 5 and 6 are scheduled to be completed this year and next.
Powered by its own nuclear brands, CNNC said the company is devoted to meeting the ever-increasing energy demands of social economic development, and ensuring the energy supply and safety with an optimized energy portfolio to achieve sustainable development.
CNNC also made its debut on this year's Fortune Global 500 list, and its three listed subsidiaries made it onto the 2020 Fortune China 500 list. At the end of 2019, CNNC had assets of 830 billion yuan ($119 billion) and more than 170,000 employees, according to the company.