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'Pebble-bed' cracker to begin construction
By Mai Dou (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-02-22 06:30

A US$370 million nuclear plant using a new kind of technology is expected to start its construction this year.

The project is led by China Huaneng Group, the parent company of Hong Kong-listed Huaneng Power International Inc.

Industry analysts said the plant's new technology, called the "pebble-bed technology," is a high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor technology that is supposedly safer.

Nuclear plants commonly use pressurized water or boiling water reactors.

Nine out of the 11 nuclear reactors running in China are designed with pressurized water technology imported from France and Russia, and the remaining two use Canada's pressurized heavy-water technology.

Liu Wei, vice-president of Beijing Institute of Nuclear Engineering, yesterday said that now is not the right time to use the pebble-bed technology commercially in building reactors, because the cost is still much higher than other technologies and it can be only used in small reactors.

Cost for building the pebble-bed reactors will be about US$500 more per kilowatt in capacity, compared with other commercialized technologies, Liu said.

Industry analysts said the pebble-bed technology can only be used in reactors of less than 300 MW, but China is building reactors of at least 1,000 MW each.

However, as the research evolves, the new technology could be competitive in 2020 or 2030, said Liu.

Huaneng Group will take a 50 per cent stake in the planned 190-megawatt (MW) reactor, located in Weihai of East China's Shandong Province, while China Nuclear Engineering and Construction Corp and Tsinghua University will own 35 per cent and 5 per cent respectively, said Li.

The three parties signed an investment agreement for the nuclear plant in Beijing at the end of 2004.

The owner of the remaining 10 per cent has not been determined, but could go to a local company, Huaneng spokesman Li Zhaokiu said.

The project is scheduled to start operation by 2010, Li said.

(China Daily 02/22/2006 page10)

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