China Nuclear Plant AP1000 Unit Reaches Full Power Operation


Unit 1 of the Sanmen nuclear power plant in China’s Zhejiang province has reached full power operation for the first time. The unit became the world’s first AP1000 to achieve grid connection and power generation.

Sanmen 1 reached 100% power for the first time at 2.10pm Tuesday, China National Nuclear Corporation and State Nuclear Technology Corporation announced.

Hot testing of Sanmen 1 – which simulated the temperatures and pressures that the reactor’s systems would be subjected to during normal operation – was completed in June last year. The loading of fuel assemblies into its core began on 25 April. The unit achieved first criticality – a sustained chain reaction – on 21 June. On 27 June, nuclear-generated steam was used for the first time to successfully rotate the turbine at rated speed.

The unit has been undergoing gradual power ascension testing until all testing is safely and successfully completed at 100% power. Sanmen 1 is scheduled to enter commercial operation by the end of this year. New nuclear power reactors in China are usually considered to be in commercial operation upon completion of a demonstration test run of 168 hours of continuous operation at full power.

In September 2007, Westinghouse and its partner the Shaw Group received authorisation to construct four AP1000 units in China: two at Sanmen in Zhejiang province and two more at Haiyang in Shandong province. Construction of Sanmen 1 began in April 2009, while first concrete for Sanmen 2 was poured in December 2009. Construction of Haiyang 1 and 2 began in September 2009 and June 2010, respectively.

Hot tests at Sanmen 2 were completed in January. The loading of fuel into the reactor’s core is expected to begin soon, with Sanmen 2 also expected to begin operating by the end of this year.

Haiyang achieved first criticality on 8 August and is also expected to begin operating by year-end, with Haiyang 2 – where fuel loading also began on 8 August – expected to start up in 2019.

Four AP1000 reactors were also being built in the USA – two each at Vogtle and Summer. However, construction of the two Summer units was suspended last August.

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