Nuclear, Reactors

China on Pace to Become the World Leader in Nuclear Energy by 2030

Issue 4 and Volume 4.

By Brian Wheeler, Editor

The power industry in China continued to grow in 2010 with total installed capacity reaching 962 GW, an increase of 88 GW from 2009. Reflecting growth all across the economy, demand for electricity grew almost 15 percent through 2010. As some countries eliminated the possibility of new nuclear power following the events at the Fukushima Daiichi station in Japan, China not only continues construction but is planning one of the most aggressive nuclear power programs globally to keep up with demand.

At present, nuclear power makes up about 1 percent of China’s electric generation mix. Coal, by contrast, accounts for 80 percent of power generation. To reduce emissions, almost 30 nuclear power construction projects are underway to increase nuclear power’s capacity from the current 11.9 GW to as much as 80 GW by 2020. That’s because if China wants to hit its goals of decreasing the use of coal and oil for power “they have to build nuclear” said Alain Dardy, New Builds marketing vice president for Areva. And the Chinese, he said, have a good track record of hitting their goals.

Building in a Post-Fukushima World

In March, soon after the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan, the Central Government of China suspended all approvals for new plants and ordered a halt to construction until safety reviews were completed at existing plants. By August, the China Nuclear Energy Association said that safety inspectors and senior officials from the National Nuclear Safety Administration, the National Energy Board, the China Seismological Bureau and the Academy of Sciences all had completed a tour and examination of existing reactors. The China Nuclear Energy Association said in August that orders for relevant nuclear power equipment corporations would pick up as the previously suspended projects resumed. Reviews for plants under construction are still underway and expectations are that the government will review the findings later this year, said Anthea Cheng, senior public affairs manager for CLP Power Hong Kong Ltd. Lessons learned from the events at Fukushima Daiichi will be used to develop safety enhancement measures for safeguarding against extreme natural disasters and strengthening emergency preparedness, particularly for flooding.

Construction of the Areva EPR reactor at Units 1 and 2 at the Taishan plant as of July 2011. Photo courtesy of TNPJVC/ Areva.

China’s nuclear development plan will depend on the outcome of the safety review and implementation of a nuclear safety plan, said Cheng. However, neither is expected to deflect China from its plan to incorporate nuclear energy as part of the country’s overall generation portfolio.

CLP, one of the largest external investors in Chinese power assets with 5,899 MW, partnered with China Guangdong Nuclear Power Co. Ltd. (CGNPC) in the Guangdong Daya Bay Nuclear Power Station, one of the nation’s first commercial nuclear power plants when commissioned in 1994. The Daya Bay station has a generating capacity of 1,968 MW from two pressurized water reactors. This past July, CLP reached an agreement with CGNPC to invest up to $745 million in the Yangjiang Nuclear Power Station Project. CLP will own 17 percent. When complete, the project that will have an expected capacity of 6,480 MW generated from six indigenous CPR-1000 PWRs. Cheng said the project will be commissioned in phases between 2013 to 2017 and will serve local demand from Guangdong Province.

China’s plan to stay on track with its ambitious goals is evident with the August 7 announcement that the Ling Ao Unit 4, the second unit of Ling Ao Phase II nuclear power plant, entered commercial operations. The second Ling Ao II unit raises the number of operating reactors in China to 14 at three sites; six at Daya Bay/Ling Ao, six at Qinshan and two at Tianwan.

The Ling Ao nuclear power plant under construction. Photo courtesy of Alstom.

CGNPC said the 1,080 MWe PWR unit entered commercial operation after 168 hours of testing. Alstom said the completion of Unit 4 makes the Daya Bay/Ling Ao complex the largest nuclear power plant in China’s Guangdong province.

“The successful startup of Unit 4 represents a significant milestone for the Ling Ao project,” said Patrick Ledermann, senior vice president of Alstom’s Nuclear Business, in a statement.

Alstom, along with its partner Dongfang Electric Corp. Ltd. (DECL), supplied major equipment to the project such as the turbogenerator, moisture separator reheater (MSR), the condenser and low-pressure heater as well as Alstom’s Arabelle half-speed steam turbine.

Capacity Grows

Of the 27 reactors with a combined 29.7 GW of capacity under construction in China, 17 are the CGNPC-developed CPR-1000. And CGNPC is developing the CPR-1000+ with design improvements that are expected to make it similar to Generation III reactors, such as the AP1000 and the Areva EPR.

The Sanmen nuclear power plant site as of July 2011. Photo courtesy of Westinghouse Electric Co.

“It is pretty clear that China and other countries will focus new build on Generation III reactors, like the AP1000, that really have the coping capabilities for Fukushima lessons learned,” said Ric Pérez, Westinghouse Electric Co. Operations president.

To date, Westinghouse and its Chinese partners are building four 1,154 MWe AP1000 reactors in China, two at the Sanmen site in Zhejiang province and two at the Haiyang site in Shandong province. For the first two units, Sanmen 1 and Haiyang 1, Westinghouse will provide the nuclear island’s major components, instrumentation and controls and other facets that attach to the nuclear steam supply systems. For the second units, Sanmen 2 and Haiyang 2, the Chinese operators will take over that scope. For example, the engineering, procurement and construction team will take on the steam generators manufactured to Westinghouse design in China.

“The concept is to get the reactor indigenized over time,” said Pérez.

As part of a Generation III Self-Reliance Program intended to be a platform for China’s ability to develop a carbon-free indigenous technology, Westinghouse and its partner The Shaw Group are providing the design basis and engineering for Unit 1 at both Sanmen and Haiyang. The China Nuclear Industry Fifth Construction Co. (CNF) is leading construction activities with the help of Westinghouse and Shaw’s certified construction renderings.

The Westinghouse-led consortium will deliver the technology for indigenous development of the AP1000 to the State Nuclear Power Technology Co. (SNPTC), which is also the engineering, procurement, construction (EPC) firm for both plant owners. The largest nuclear entity in China, the China National Nuclear Corp., will own and operate the Sanmen units. Westinghouse, along with Shaw and the Sanmen Nuclear Power Co. Ltd., delivered the reactor vessel to Sanmen Unit 1 in August. Sanmen is the lead unit in the AP1000 fleet in China and is keeping pace with the projected schedule.

Korea-based Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction manufactured the 340-ton reactor vessel, which will undergo operational testing at Sanmen Unit 1 before starting commercial operation in late 2013.

Westinghouse senior vice president of Nuclear Power Plants, Deva Chari, said in a statement that all key project milestones of the Sanmen project were met in 2010 and the project continues to work toward successfully completing all 2011 key project milestones this year.

The reactor vessel delivery in August marked the start of major equipment deliveries to Sanmen. With all major components installed through the top of the containment pressure vessel, Pérez said the main focus now is to have pieces such as the steam generators and pressurizers in the building by the end of this year. This will allow the containment top to be installed and welded by late December or early January 2012.

“Now, a little less than halfway through the 54 months, we are on target, feel positive that all civil work has gone pretty much to plan and the major components are ready to ship,” Pérez said.

Westinghouse said the construction of Unit 1 at Sanmen and Haiyang would last 54 months. Construction of Unit 1 at Haiyang is roughly six months behind Sanmen Unit 1, but on schedule. Pérez said there have been lessons learned from work on Sanmen 1, such as how structural modules are set. He said Westinghouse sees a 10 to 15 percent improvement between the first two units. However, due to the way major components are staggered, Haiyang 1 will continue to be six months behind Sanmen 1 and is expected to be online in 2014.

As part of its agreement with Chinese partners, Westinghouse turned over the design and jointly developed the fabrication of all of the modules, both mechanical and structural, for the plants. Those specifications were the basis for the Haiyang modular facility, which is two kilometers from the construction site. The facility gives the EPC a central location to manufacture all of the modules for the four initial AP1000 plants as well as for future plants.

Pérez said that at its peak, the modular manufacturing facility could have the capability of delivering 10 AP1000 units every year, if needed. And with modular build, Westinghouse hopes to bring down construction time from the current 54 months to 48 or 42 months.

On a schedule similar to that of Westinghouse, Areva is constructing two Generation III EPR reactors at Taishan, with at least two more planned. The EPR, a 1,650 MW pressurized water reactor, is also being constructed in France and Finland. At Taishan, Alain Dardy said the construction schedule is continuing on pace with the projected schedule of 46 months to completion, down from around 90 months at the Flamanville site in France. Dardy attributed that to lessons learned from building Flamanville and Olkiluoto 3 in Finland. As one of the first foreign partners with the Chinese nuclear power industry when work began on the Daya Bay project in the 1980s, Areva is now helping to build Taishan. Its role is to assist with uranium fuel supply and other associated services. Areva is also discussing the possibility of building a recycling facility in China, said Eric Neisse vice president of Strategy and Marketing for Areva China.

Working with CGNPC in design and project management, Dongfang Electric Co. (DEC) and Shanghai Electric Co. (SEC) in heavy component manufacturing and China National Nuclear Co. (CNNC) in fuel fabrication, Areva has supported the development of the Chinese nuclear industry through technology transfers. It also has established joint ventures in the field of reactor engineering, primary pumps manufacturing and in-core instrumentation to address domestic and international markets.

“The Chinese government wants to move forward with a higher share of nuclear power,” said Dardy. “We see that they are taking a rational approach.”

At Taishan, the project is about at the midway point with basic design almost complete. Major equipment is being delivered to the site and the reactor dome lifting is on track for the fall of 2011, said Taishan General Project Director David Emond. The reactor pressure vessel is also expected to arrive to Taishan Unit 1 before the end of 2011. And with most components for Unit 1 coming from France, Areva has yet to have a major supply chain issue, said Dardy. The project is on schedule with 75 percent of the orders placed.

“A major milestone in the project has been made with the shift in emphasis from the design to execution of construction phase,” said Emond. “With this shift, the center of activities and the project management team relocated to China.”

Fellow French-based company Alstom is helping deliver the first EPR reactor under construction at Taishan by participating in construction of the power island. The work falls under two contracts. One contract is for the supply of the turbine generator package (TGP). The second is for the engineering and procurement of the conventional island, excluding the TGP.

The TPG supply contract includes two Arabelle steam turbines complete with generators, condensers with duplex heaters, moisture separator reheaters (MSR) and auxiliary equipment needed to convert steam produced at the nuclear reactor into electrical power.

In this July 2011 photo, construction continues on the water pump station of Taishan Unit 1. Photo courtesy of TNPJVC/Areva

The conventional island engineering and procurement contract covers the turbine hall, the equipment inside and the pumping station. Alstom will supply key equipment such as feedwater heaters, de-aerators, circulating water pumps and condenser extraction pumps in the turbine hall and the pumping station.

Taishan Unit 2 is expected to be online six to nine months after Unit 1. Since the Chinese and Areva’s joint venture parent, CGNPC, are in charge of the engineering and procurement of two reactors at Taishan, Dardy said many Chinese suppliers must be qualified.

“The Chinese are building 20 reactors in parallel and they are just good at it,” he said. “They have both the workforce and skills and are excellent partners.”

With the expansions in heavy forging and large pressure vessel component manufacturing, Westinghouse has yet to have supply chain issues even as the two reactor vendors continue to work in parallel. With global support of companies such as Doosan in Korea, Equipos Nucleares SA (ENSA) in Spain and Babcock & Wilcox in the U.S., heavy components will not be as big an issue for nuclear power plant build-outs in China. The tightest area for construction up to now has been for safety related electronics due to longer lead times. Ordering early has reduced most delays for Westinghouse.

“It’s not a secret that they are building a lot of reactors,” said Pérez. “In general, we have not had a big issue relative to the supply chain.”

Due to the amount of construction, finding qualified workers such as welders and high-level electricians can be a problem. Pérez said the market for certain skill sets has been saturated and that CNF has been able to “shrink and swell” to meet project demands. CNF is working at multiple nuclear projects in China and is able to move workers between projects, such as the Areva project at Taishan.

“They work closely to make sure they have the needed people,” said Pérez.

Following the first wave of nuclear power plant construction that is taking place to deliver 80 MWe by 2020, China will move into the second phase of its nuclear power construction plan. Barring any substantial changes to the energy plan when leadership changes in March 2012, China is expected to have 400 MWe of nuclear power capacity by 2050. If China meets its goals, the nation will separate itself from the world’s current leader in nuclear energy, the U.S., as well as Japan, France and Russia. And learning from alliances with French, U.S., Russian and Canadian companies, the Chinese will develop its second wave of nuclear power with indigenous technology. The Chinese also will likely build on their experiences with the first units at plants such as Sanmen, Haiyang and Taishan to be a world leader in the production of nuclear power reactors.

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