First Chinese-developed nuclear reactor starts operations

The reactor can generate 10 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year and cut carbon emissions by 8.16 million tons.
The reactor can generate 10 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year and cut carbon emissions by 8.16 million tons.PHOTO: CHINA NATIONAL NUCLEAR CORPORATION

BEIJING • China has powered up its first domestically developed nuclear reactor - the Hualong One - a significant step in Beijing's attempts to become less dependent on Western allies for energy security and critical technology.

The reactor, which was connected to the national grid on Friday, can generate 10 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year and cut carbon emissions by 8.16 million tonnes, according to China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).

"This marks China breaking the monopoly of foreign nuclear power technology and officially entering the technology's first batch of advanced countries," it said.

Nuclear plants supplied less than 5 per cent of China's annual electricity needs last year, according to the National Energy Administration, but this share is expected to grow as Beijing attempts to become carbon neutral by 2060.

Reducing its dependence on Western allies in critical high-tech sectors such as power generation is a key goal in Beijing's "Made in China 2025" plan.

Billions of dollars in state subsidies have been given to Chinese companies to speed the process - a move that has angered China's trade partners and sparked a trade row with Washington.

Work on the Hualong One reactor started in 2015 and there are currently six other reactors under construction, state-owned plant operator CNNC said.

The Hualong One, deployed at a plant in east China's Fujian province, will be put into commercial use by the end of the year after undergoing tests.

China has 47 nuclear plants with a total generation capacity of 48.75 million kilowatts - the world's third highest after the United States and France.

The Chinese government has invested billions of dollars to develop its nuclear energy sector in recent years as it struggles to wean its economy from coal.

Separately, Bloomberg yesterday reported that China plans to buy about US$1.5 billion (S$2 billion) of coal from Indonesia after agreeing to a new three-year supply pact, a move that has the potential to further weaken trade ties with rival supplier Australia.

  • 10 billion

    Amount of electricity in kilowatt-hours the nuclear reactor, Hualong One, can generate annually.

According to the Indonesian Coal Mining Association, whichsigned a memorandum of understanding last Wednesday with the China Coal Transportation and Distribution Association, Indonesia will seek to raise coal exports to China from next year.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 29, 2020, with the headline 'First Chinese-developed nuclear reactor starts operations'. Subscribe