The world's first Generation IV nuclear power plant starts its commercial operation in China
January 04, 2024

The world's first Generation IV nuclear power plant starts its commercial operation in China

China's Shidao Bay-1 nuclear power plant has achieved commercial operation, marking the world's first Generation IV plant, according to China’s National Energy Administration.

Generation IV

Generation IV reactors include  gas-cooled fast reactors (GFR), lead-cooled fast reactors (LFR), molten salt reactors (MSR), sodium-cooled fast reactors (SFR), supercritical-water-cooled reactors (SCWR), and very high-temperature reactors (VHTR). The international collaborative effort, the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), is actively engaged in research and development to bring six Generation IV nuclear reactor technologies to fruition. These designs aim for lower costs, reduced financial risks, minimal nuclear waste, and elevated levels of safety and reliability, signaling a promising future for the evolution of nuclear energy.

The world's first Generation IV nuclear power plant starts its commercial operation in China
Generations of nuclear reactors

The HTR-PM reactor

The HTR-PM (high-temperature reactor- pebble med modules) is a Chinese small modular nuclear reactor.

The unique features of the HTR-PM include the use of helium as a coolant and graphite as a moderator. The design employs heat-resistant ceramic-coated particle nuclear fuel elements, such as graphite-coated balls. It is deemed suitable for various applications, including power generation and high-temperature process heat.

Its innovative pebble-bed design incorporates heat-resistant all-ceramic-coated particle spherical nuclear fuel elements. At Shidao Bay, these fuel spheres take the form of graphite-coated balls, each approximately six centimeters in diameter and composed of around 12,000 four-layer particles dispersed in a graphite powder matrix.

The HTR-PM plant in Shandong province received approval after operating for 168 consecutive hours. Owned by China Huaneng Group, this plant is expected to have 10 units, each comprising two small HTR-PM reactors powering a 210 MW steam turbine. Construction began in 2012, and it was connected to the grid in 2021.

The world's first Generation IV nuclear power plant starts its commercial operation in China
Fuel loading at the Shidao-Bay 1 HTR-PM reactor (Photo: NucNet)

55 operating nuclear plants and 22 under construction

China currently operates 55 nuclear plants, including Shidao Bay-1, with an additional 22 plants under construction. This places China at the forefront of nuclear energy expansion, surpassing other nations in active construction projects.

Aligned with its ambitious energy goals, China's 14th Five-Year Plan aims to achieve 70 GW of installed nuclear capacity by 2025, up from 51 GW at the end of 2020—a substantial increase of over 40%. This comes after the country fell short of its previous target of 58 GW by 2020.

Source: NucNet

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