China's first homegrown nuclear reactor begins loading fuel

China National Nuclear Power said fuel loading started at the Fuqing No. 5 reactor, on Sept 4, 2020.
China National Nuclear Power said fuel loading started at the Fuqing No. 5 reactor, on Sept 4, 2020.PHOTO: CHINA NATIONAL NUCLEAR CORPORATION/FACEBOOK

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China's homegrown nuclear technology took a significant step forward as a Hualong One reactor began loading fuel for the first time.

China National Nuclear Power, a unit of China National Nuclear, said fuel loading started at the Fuqing No. 5 reactor, the first to use the domestic technology, on Sept 4 after securing an operating licence from the nation's Ministry of Ecology and Environment, according a statement on its WeChat account. No timeline was given for starting up the reactor.

Hualong One development is being closely watched in the battle for the nation's next-generation nuclear power systems. Its success could mean a nuclear revival in China that would have little to do with western developers including Westinghouse Electric from the United States and France's Electricite de France.

China had almost 49 gigawatts of nuclear power installed as of 2019 and should get into the mid-fifties this year.

GlobalData predicts it will pass France as the world's No. 2 nuclear generator in 2022 and claim the top spot from the US four years after that.

Beijing gave the green light to four Hualong One reactors last year in a clear sign of support, ending a three-year freeze on new approvals caused by the government's consideration of different technologies and the ongoing trade dispute with the US.

Two more projects that will use Hualong One designs, with a combined cost of US$10 billion (S$14 billion) were approved last week.

The country started up the world's first next-generation reactors in 2018, including four AP1000 units designed by Westinghouse as well as a project using Electricite de France's EPR technology.