30 Sep 2009 11:58

China's nuclear power equipment manufacturers advance goal of self-reliance

By Terry Wang

Shanghai. September 28. INTERFAX-CHINA - China is pushing its nuclear power equipment manufacturers to advance technologically in an effort to make the domestic nuclear power industry more self-reliant, said industry experts at a recent industry conference.

Self-reliance requires independent nuclear plant power design, construction, manufacturing and operation, with manufacturing being the key factor, said Tang Zide, a senior engineer with State Nuclear Power Technology Corp., at Lnoppen's 3rd Annual China Nuclear Power Summit on Sept. 24 in Rongcheng City, Shandong Province.

China currently has six operating nuclear power plants with 11 reactors, which account for 1.4 percent of the country's total installed capacity. Yet many industry experts believe that the future of clean energy generation in China will be heavily dependent on nuclear power.

China aims to raise its nuclear power installed capacity from the current 90,700 megawatts (MW) to 40,000 MW by 2020, but it is generally expected that the central government will raise its 2020 target to between 70,000 MW and 100,000 MW.

The first phase of China's maiden nuclear power plant, the Qinshan nuclear power plant, relied on Chinese expertise and equipment for most of its development. Nuclear power plants that were built later, however, depended more on foreign firms, Tang said.

For example, the second phases of both the Qinshan and Ling'ao nuclear power plants relied on domestic suppliers for 55 percent of their equipment, Sui Yongbing, chief engineer of the China Machinery Industry Federation (CMIF), said at the conference.

But Tang was quick to point out that self reliance does not just mean that the equipment was made locally. The Chinese government is hoping that domestic firms will be able to build up their design and manufacturing capabilities, rather than just relying on the designs of foreign companies.

The goal of self reliance is to keep the cost of developing a nuclear power plant below $1,400 per kilowatt (kW) so they can operate with an on-grid power tariff of between RMB 0.375 ($0.055) and RMB 0.40 ($0.059) per kilowatt hour (kWh), Sui said.

Chinese equipment manufacturers have invested heavily in developing their own technology over the last few years, Sui said. Although some nuclear power plants under development in China have licensed third-generation AP1000 reactors from U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric Co., most of the new nuclear power plants scheduled to be built before 2020 will use updated second generation nuclear technology, which can be manufactured domestically.

Sui estimated that Yangjiang and Hongyang River nuclear power plants, which are currently under construction, will rely on Chinese-made products for 75 percent to 85 percent of their equipment.

Chinese companies now have the ability to make a critical component for nuclear power plants, the reactor vessel. China First Heavy Industries (Group) Co. Ltd. (CFHI), Dongfang Electric Corp. (DEC) and Shanghai Electric Group (Shanghai Electric) can manufacture nine reactor vessels each year and their combined annual production capacity is expected to grow to 13 or 14 units in 2013, Sui said.

DEC and Shanghai Electric each have orders in hand to make four reactor vessels, while CFHI has orders for 19 units. CFHI is also researching how to make reactor vessels for AP1000 reactors. Regarding another important nuclear component, the steam generator, DEC, Shanghai Electric and Harbin Electric Corp. (HEC) can together manufacture 21 units annually, and are expected to increase their combined annual production capacity to 30 units by 2013, which is enough to build 10 nuclear reactors.

DEC and Shanghai Electric each have orders in hand to make 18 steam generators, while HEC has orders for 7. HEC is also researching how to make steam generators for AP1000 reactors.

Shanghai Electric has the production capacity to build five sets of reactor internals each year and has received orders for 12 sets. Its competitor, DEC, will be able to supply 14 sets in 2013.

Sui believes China's nuclear power equipment industry will be able to meet the country's needs when construction starts on many of the country's planned nuclear power plants in 2012 and 2013.

Chinese firms have made progress in manufacturing two key components - nuclear pumps and the nuclear valves. A nuclear power plant with two reactors typically has about 100 nuclear pumps. Sui said that Chinese manufacturers only supplied 6 percent of the nuclear pumps used in the construction of the Ling'ao nuclear power plant's second phase, but would now be able to supply 40 percent of the pumps. Sui estimated that Chinese firms would be able to supply about 60 percent of the nuclear pumps for the next four reactors to be built at Yangjiang nuclear power plant in Guangdong Province.

Chinese companies can manufacture almost all Class II and Class III nuclear pumps, though they still need to either license the technology or collaborate with foreign companies to manufacture Class I pumps. Among Chinese companies, Shenyang Blower Works Group Co. Ltd. has licensed the technology to make pumps for AP1000 reactors from EMD, the U.S.-based power equipment manufacturer.

Regarding nuclear valves, domestic manufacturers supplied only 4 percent of nuclear valves for the expansion of the Qinshan nuclear power plant's second phase. If construction of the expansion were to start today, however, Chinese manufactures would be able to provide 40 percent of nuclear valves, Sui said. Chinese manufacturers can currently produce almost all types of nuclear valves, except some types of Class I valves.

Sui estimated that Chinese firms would be able to supply about 60 percent of the nuclear valves for the next four reactors to be built at Yangjiang nuclear power plant.

Regarding steam turbines and power generators in the conventional island, domestic companies have the annual production capacity of eight steam turbines and five power generators for updated second generation nuclear power reactors and will be able to produce 15 steam turbines and 15.5 power generators by 2013.

The table below details China's nuclear power plants currently under construction.

Nuclear power plants under construction in China

Project name Province Number of reactors Number of reactors in first phase Reactor type
Ling'ao phase II Guangdong 2 2 CPR1000
Qinshan phase II expansion Zhejiang 2 2 CNP650
Ningde Fujian 6 4 CPR1000
Hongyan River Liaoning 6 4 CPR1000
Yangjiang Guangdong 6 2 CPR1000
Fuqing Fujian 6 2 Updated M310
Fangjiashan Zhejiang 2 2 Updated M310
Sanmen Zhejiang 6 2 AP1000
Haiyang Shandong 6 2 AP1000
Taishan Guangdong 2 2 EPR
Total 44 24

Source: Interfax research