The closer ties between Russia and China have brought some welcome developments for the nuclear industry. During his visit to China in early June, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed several contracts with Chinese president Xi Jinping regarding the construction four new Gen3+ VVER-1200 reactors in China.
According to plans, Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy provider Rosatom will build two new reactors at the Tianwan nuclear power plant as well as another two reactors at a greenfield site in Xudabao in Liaoning province. The agreement also includes provisions for Russia to provide equipment and technical assistance to China for the construction of an experimental fast neutron reactor in Fujian province.
The value of the contract is estimated to be in excess of 20 billion yuan ($3.1 billion), making it the largest nuclear cooperation project between the two countries and the largest of 2018 thus far. The total value of current and future contracts associated with the agreed projects is estimated to be more than $15 billion, according to Caixin, while Russia estimates the value of initial supplies to be worth about $5 billion.
The planned nuclear expansion in China underlines Beijing’s stated goal to derive 20% of its national energy mix from non-fossil fuels by 2030 as the world’s most populous nations seeks to reduce its CO2 emissions drastically. Under China’s nuclear power development plan, the country needs to expand its nuclear capacity by 6 to 8 million kilowatts each year by 2020 in order to achieve its decarbonisation targets.
The deal comes at a time of increased cooperation between the two countries in peaceful nuclear energy. In 2016, in a joint statement on deepening civilian nuclear energy cooperation, Moscow and Beijing vowed to build new nuclear power facilities and expand mutual support on new applications of nuclear technology, as well as advancing nuclear safety.
The Tianwan nuclear power plant started as a joint project in 1997 with generating units 1, 2 and 3 using Russia-supplied VVER-1000 reactor technology. Unit 4, also based on VVER-1000 technology, is expected to be connected to the grid by the end of this year. The first two units began commercial operations in 2007. Under the new contract, the Gen3+ VVER-1200 reactors will be powering the new generating units 7 and 8.
In 2011, a team of Chinese and Russian scientists jointly booted up an experimental fast reactor using sodium coolant. Under the new deals, both countries will be conducting research using the CFR-600 fast reactor pilot project, which also utilizes a sodium-cooling system and is scheduled to be operational in 2023. The CFR-600 is a fourth-generation reactor designed to boost the utilization rate of natural uranium from 1% to 60% while minimizing radioactive waste, according to China’s National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). Russia is currently the only country operating large-scale power generation fast reactors, BN-600 and BN-800.