Russia is set to build four generation three-plus VVER-1200 reactors in China: two at the Xudabao power plant in Liaoning and two more at Tianwan in Jiangsu province. Credit: Courtesy Rosatom.

Beijing has moved one step closer to promoting sustainable energy and cleaning up the region’s infamous air pollution, due to the extensive burning of coal for heating and power generation.

According to a report in Nuclear Engineering International, China National Nuclear Power (CNNP), a subsidiary of China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), announced the start of the construction of unit 3 of the Xudabao NPP.

Construction of the US$1.7 billion Xudabao 3 project in Liaoning province officially started on July 28 with the pouring of the first concrete for the nuclear reactor island, the report said.

It is one of four VVER-1200 reactors being built by Russia’s Rosatom in China under a 2018 agreement at a reported cost of $3.62 billion, the biggest nuclear energy deal between the two countries over the last decade.

CNNP noted that, with the pouring of the first concrete, it now has six reactors under construction with an installed capacity of 6.258 GWe (Gigawatt electrical power), the report said.

Russia’s Atommash plant has also announced the start of production of the main components for Xudabao 3.

In May this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping hailed close industrial ties between their countries via video-conferencing.

“Russian and Chinese specialists are implementing a truly landmark flagship joint project,” the Kremlin cited Putin as saying.

Describing the nuclear reactors as “powerful” and “modern,” the Russian leader said they meet all safety requirements and the highest environmental standards.

“We can say that Russian-Chinese relations have reached the highest level in history,” Putin said.

China’s Xi in his speech called nuclear energy a “strategic priority for cooperation” between the two countries.

Xi called for a “more equitable, balanced, inclusive, open and shared global energy governance system,” adding that Beijing and Moscow should “play a constructive role in achieving global sustainable development goals.”

In June 2018, Russia and China signed four agreements for the construction of two VVER-1200 reactors as units 7&8 at the Tianwan NPP in Jiangsu province and two more to be built as units 3&4 at the new Xudabao NPP site in Huludao, Liaoning province.

Further agreements signed in June 2019 included a general contract for the construction of Xudabao 3&4, as well as a contract for the supply of nuclear fuel, the report said.

Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom is involved in the construction of four nuclear generating units in China — two VVER-1200 reactors as units 7&8 at the Tianwan NPP in Jiangsu province (pictured) and two more to be built as units 3&4 at the new Xudabao NPP site in Huludao, Liaoning province. Photo: AFP / Sputnik / Rosatom.

Under the VVER-1200 standard, the nuclear part of the plant is housed in a single building acting as a containment structure, with improved emergency core cooling and backup diesel power supply and feed water systems that rely on water tanks built on top of a containment dome.

There is also a “core catcher” to contain the molten reactor core in the event of a severe meltdown.

The People’s Daily noted that the trial of the VVER-1200 technology would add to China’s status as a testing ground for the world’s third-generation nuclear reactors, complementing China’s indigenous third-generation Hualong reactor technology.

Rosatom will design the nuclear island and supply key equipment, as well as provide installation supervision and commissioning services for the equipment. Turbine generators for the plants will be supplied by China.

The power units are expected to be commissioned in 2027-2028.

Russia’s Atommash will manufacture and supply two VVER-1200 reactors, two sets of steam generators, reactor cooling pumps, a main circulation pipeline and two compressors, the report said.

Moscow has sought influence and closer diplomatic ties via its nuclear power stations, which have a price advantage over Western competitors.

In recent years, it has notably pushed for greater clout in Africa, signing preliminary agreements with a host of countries including Egypt, Nigeria and Sudan.

The new reactor was designed at Kurchatov Institute (Moscow) and OKB Gidropress (Podolsk) and is manufactured by Atommash (Volgodonsk).

Capable of withstanding an SL-2 earthquake, the design provides for a fuel burnup of up to 70 MWd/kgU (megawatt-days per metric tonne).

VVER-1200 can be optionally matched with a half-speed turbine and operate in a load-following mode.

Many modifications have been made to reactor internals (core barrel, core baffle, protective tube unit and sensors) to prevent accidents and extend the service life to 60 years. The reactor is also designed to accommodate MOX fuel.

According to Joseph Jacobelli, an independent energy analyst and Asia-Pacific CEO of clean energy producer Joule Power, China will continue to explore all the different technologies available, including Westinghouse Electric’s AP1000 and the French-designed EPR.

“China does not solely want next-generation Russian nuclear power technology. The nation’s operators have been looking, and will continue to seek, a variety of options,” he said.

“The country wants a sizeable uplift in nuclear-installed capacity in the coming decades but wants to ensure an efficient and safe development so it will remain open to all solutions and not focus on just one type of technology.”

Sources: Nuclear Engineering International, Asia Times, The People’s Daily, China Daily, Rosatom