HONG KONG • China will soon be ready to start commercial operations of the world’s first next-generation AP1000 nuclear reactor, possibly setting off a renewed push by the country into atomic power after years of delays and billion- dollar cost blowouts.
The No 1 reactor at the Sanmen power plant, designed by Westinghouse Electric Co LLC, is expected to be ready for commercial operations today after completing a 168-hour test run, Shanghai-listed China National Nuclear Power Co said in a statement to the exchange yesterday. It didn’t say when the unit, in the eastern Zhejiang province, will officially enter commercial power production.
China’s drive for cleaner energy has been a bright spot for a nuclear industry beset by cost overruns and stricter regulations in the wake of Japan’s 2011 Fukushima disaster.
The Sanmen start-up may help advance the country’s ambitions to almost double nuclear capacity by 2020 as the approval of new reactors is seen dependent on the successful start of so-called third-generation reactors.
“It’s a landmark event for China’s nuclear power industry,” said Snowy Yao, a Hong Kong-based analyst at China Secur it ies Internat ional Finance Holding Co. “It’s safe to say China is now one of the leaders in the world’s civil nuclear power industry.”
These types of new units, including the AP1000, were designed to be easier and less expensive to instal and operate, as well as safer. But they ended up being more expensive and difficult to build than expected, especially in the US, where cost overruns ultimately forced the bankruptcy last year of Westinghouse, the nuclear technology pioneer that has since been purchased by Brookfield Business Partners LP.
The first Sanmen AP1000 missed its original 2013 start-up target due to design problems and supply chain bottlenecks. It’s also 10 billion yuan (RM6.21 billion) over its original 40 billion yuan budget, as is a similar reactor being built in Haiyang, China Energy News reported in August, citing a State Nuclear Power Technology Corp official.
China is also developing reactors designed by Electricite de France SA in Taishan in southwestern Guangdong province, where commercial operations are expected after it was connected to the grid in June.