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2020-11-27 11:10:04

China’s first homemade third-generation nuclear reactor is now generating electricity in the eastern Fujian province after being connected to the local power grid, a move authorities are hailing as a vital step toward meeting the country’s ambitious clean-energy goals.

China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced Friday that the Fuqing No. 5 reactor is the world’s first pilot project using Hualong One technology — in other words, the first domestically developed third-generation pressurized water nuclear reactor. Half a decade after construction began in 2015, the reactor is now scheduled to be put into commercial use by the end of this year, though it has yet to complete some tests and operational assessments.

“This marks China breaking the monopoly of foreign nuclear power technology and officially entering the technology’s first batch of advanced countries,” CNNC said.

The announcement comes as China is forging ahead with nuclear power to meet its clean-energy target of reaching peak carbon output before 2030 and cutting reliance on coal-fired power, which currently makes up 55% of the domestic energy mix. In a high-profile speech in September, President Xi Jinping also said China is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2060.

Hou Yingdong, deputy manager at Fuqing Nuclear Power Plant, told state broadcaster China Central Television that the reactor can generate 10 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually — the equivalent of 3.12 million tons of standard coal consumption — and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 8.16 million tons.

“Independently developed by China, Hualong One represents the country’s highest level of nuclear power technology,” Ran Guang, head of the nuclear energy research institute at Xiamen University, told Sixth Tone.

There are currently six Hualong One nuclear reactors under construction at home and abroad, according to CNNC. This means exporting a single reactor is equivalent to exporting 300,000 cars, and can potentially create 150,000 jobs.

By the end of 2019, China had 47 nuclear power plants in operation with a total installed capacity of 48.75 million kilowatts, ranking third in the world. Meanwhile, 13 nuclear power plants are now under construction, more than in any other country.

However, environmental and safety issues involving nuclear power plants remain a concern. In August 2016, thousands of residents protested a planned nuclear waste facility in Lianyungang, a city in the eastern Jiangsu province, leading to the project being suspended.

Chinese authorities only resumed approving new nuclear power plants in August 2019 after a three-year hiatus. Following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, China had not greenlighted any projects between 2016 to 2018 due to safety concerns.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: An exterior view of the nuclear power plant in Fuqing, Fujian province. From Weibo)