01 July 2008

Chinese High Temperature Nuclear Reactor Leading World to a Safe Nuclear Revolution

A new nuclear reactor being built in China will be the first commercial nuclear plant in the world to operate at high enough temperatures to use the Brayton gas turbine cycle--a more efficient cycle than the rankine steam cycle used in conventional nuclear plants, due to its higher temperature of operation. The new reactor will also be safer with a simpler more foolproof design. The modular design will allow quicker and more reliable construction.
“First and foremost, this generator will be the safest nuclear power plant ever designed and built,” said Wu. The major safety issue regarding nuclear reactors lies in how to cool them efficiently, as they continue to produce residual heat even after shutdown. Gas-cooled reactors discharge surplus heat and don’t need additional safety systems like water-cooled reactors do. The HTR-10 was subject to a test of its intrinsic safety in September 2004 when, as an experiment, it was shut down with no cooling. Fuel temperature reached less than 1600 C and there was no failure.

“Using the existing operating HTR-10 reactor at the Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology of Tsinghua University in Beijing, we have already done what would be unthinkable in a conventional reactor—we switched off the helium coolant and successfully let the reactor cool down by itself,” said Wu.

Second, the modular design enables the plant to be assembled much quicker and cost-effectively than traditional nuclear generators. Its streamlined construction timetable is also a first for the nuclear power industry, where designing and building generators usually take decades, rather than years.

The modules are manufactured from standardized components that can be mass-produced, shipped by road or rail and assembled relatively quickly. The new plants are smaller and new modules can be added as needed. Multiple reactors can be linked around one or more turbines, all monitored from a single control room. The site of the Shidaowan project will install 18 additional modules, which will total 3,800 MWe. __Source_via_NextBigFuture
High Temperature Reactors (HTRs) can utilise gas turbines that are driven by inert helium gas that has been heated in a nuclear reactor to extreme temperatures. The Chinese reactor will initially use steam turbines, then will later switch over to gas turbines.

A steam cycle could then be "tacked on" to the end of the gas turbine cycle to improve overall efficiencies even more.The HTR being built in China is a type of modular helium reactor (MHR), and as different aspects of the design are proven and standardised, it should be much faster to build in the future.

More information at NextBigFuture


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Blogger Richard Sharpe said...

Isn't there a problem with helium, in that it is really hard to contain ... eventually it all leaks out?

Tuesday, 01 July, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

They can also use CO2 or N2 as the gas coolant. They need an inert gas that will not react at the high temperatures involved.

I am not sure what special measures they take to make sure the He doesn't leak. Certainly you are correct that the small size of He atoms makes them harder to contain.

If He proves too expensive, they will no doubt substitute another inert gas in its place.

Tuesday, 01 July, 2008  
Blogger APH said...

Exciting stuff - I'm most jazzed about the modular design...

Tuesday, 01 July, 2008  
Blogger CarlBrannen said...

Helium shouldn't be much of a problem. Hydrogen, on the other hand, is quite hard to contain.

Wednesday, 02 July, 2008  
Blogger IConrad said...

Besides; if it is REALLY that big of a deal, they could always use argon gas.

They distill 700,000 tons (by mass) of argon out of the air, annually. It can't possibly take even 1% of that to run a single gas turbine.

Wednesday, 02 July, 2008  

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