China has started generating electricity from the world‘s first fourth-generation nuclear power plant. Unlike conventional power plants, this reactor uses gas to cool itself. Conventional reactors use pressurized water for this purpose.
The power plant, to be built in China’s Shandong province, uses two high-temperature reactors that use gas instead of water to cool them.
Nuclear fission reactors typically generate electricity by splitting atoms and using that energy to generate steam that drives a turbine. The steam is then cooled by water in the condenser circuit. The hot water then goes to the cooling tower.
More than 95 percent of civilian power reactors currently in use worldwide are water-cooled reactors, while gas-cooled reactors account for about three percent worldwide.
Globally, interest in gas-cooled reactors is increasing because they can provide cheap electricity using less resources.
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), such small modular reactors are also capable of generating high heat for industrial uses such as hydrogen production, seawater purification and heating residential buildings.
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Located in Shidao Bay, China, this reactor is the world‘s first nuclear power plant that uses gas for cooling. This power house is built for commercial exhibition.
Helium gas is used to keep the reactor cool. The temperature of the reactor can rise to 750 degrees Celsius.
Construction of the plant began in 2012 and its first reactor was connected to the country’s power grid in 2021.
Huaneng Shidao Bay High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor Demonstration Project officially commenced commercial operation in Rongcheng, #Shandongon Dec 6, which is the world‘s first fourth-generation #nuclear power plant with #China’s fully independent intellectual property… pic.twitter.com/hcvhSEnf6o
— Hola Fujian (@HolaFjian) December 6, 2023
Experts say that such reactors, thanks to their compact structure and modular design, can also play an important role in helping countries that are changing energy sources.
According to the IAEA, more than 80 SMR projects are currently under construction in 18 countries.
China is already striving to become a world leader in nuclear energy production and plans to increase the share of this type of power plants to 10 percent of electricity production by 2035.
The latest power plant also reflects China’s effort to move away from coal-fired power plants and reduce its reliance on foreign technology amid rising tensions with the West.