Wednesday 29 October 2008

China's Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) Program

China began research on fast neutron breeder reactors in the mid- and late-1960s . During its basic research period from 1965 to 1987, China's research focused on fast reactor technology such as fast reactor physics, thermodynamics, sodium technology and small sodium facility. During this initial period about 12 experimental setups were established, and one sodium loop was constructed. This included a 50 kg 235U zero-power neutron setup. On June 28 June 1970, this device reached criticality. The engineering goal for the applied basic research phase of China's FBR program (1987-1993) was to successfully construct a 65 MWt (25 MWe) experimental fast reactor. Further developments were made in sodium technology, fuel and materials, fast reactor safety, and reactor design. A preliminary foundation for a fast reactor design was established, and approximately 20 experimental setups and sodium loops were built.

Currently, the initial experimental validation phase focused on sodium loop technology. Two sodium loops were imported form Italy: ESPRESSO (sodium flow rate 110 m3/h, maximum sodium temperature 650oC) and CEDI (sodium flow rate 320 m3/h, maximum sodium temperature 650oC.) The primary conceptual design was completed in 1992 and the final design was completed in 1994. To test the concept of the design, a zero-power simulation experiment was conducted at the Physics and Dynamics Engineering Institute in Russia. It was not until January 1998 that construction work began on the country's first fast neutron reactor. The China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE) , in cooperation with the Beijing Institute of Nuclear Engineering, is constructing the FBR with Russian technical assistance. On 8 September 1999, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed a Cabinet ordinance to cooperate with China in the construction of a FBR. The draft agreement was approved by the Russian Cabinet on 22 April 2000.

Under China's national high tech "863" project, a pilot commercial station, is being built in Fangshan county near Beijing. According to the Xinhua News Agency, it is scheduled to be operational by 2003. China's original plans included building a 65 MWth (20-25 MWe) experimental reactor by the year 2000 at a cost of about $103 million. China plans to use this reactor to provide the technical foundation for its long-term program of commercial FBR development.

In December 2003, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and a large business delegation including Siemens CEO Heinrich von Pierer visited China. During this visit, delegation members discussed the possibility of China's import of Siemen's Hanau Fuel Element Factory, a mothballed mixed oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication plant. The plant was reportedly intended to generate the fuel necessary to power China's planned fast breeder reactor. The outcome of this sale met with a good deal of controversy in Germany and is still pending. [See Stephanie Lieggi, "Controversy in Germany: Siemens Sale of MOX Plant to China," Center for Nonproliferation Studies, 12 December 2003.]

MAIN DESIGN PARAMETERS OF FAST BREEDER REACTOR (FBR)


Thermal Power 65 MW
Net Electric Power 20 MW
Fuel Type first run using UO2 (64.4% enriched)
Mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel (PU,U))O2;
219.2 kg of fissionable material:
--121.6 kg Pu (93.2 kg Pu-239);
--97.6 kg U-235 (30% enriched uranium)
Coolant Sodium
Core inlet temperature 360 oC
Core outlet temperature 530 oC
Core height 45 cm
Core diameter 60 cm
Fuel element linear power (max) 430 W/cm
Max burn-up (target) 100 MWd/kg
Neutron flux 3.7X1015 n/cm2 .s
Reactor lifetime 30 years

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