China is way ahead on nuclear power innovations

While the US is still trying to figure out how to get started on 4th generation Small Modular Reactors as a safer and cheaper alternative to traditional water cooled mega-nuclear reactors, China already has a two-unit SMR site commercially operational feeding power to the grid in Shandong province.

'The new plant uses fourth-generation reactors, which are considered to be safer and more fuel efficient by an international consortium of nuclear countries. The consortium has approved six types of such reactors, and China is trying to build all of them.

The new reactors put China “ahead of other countries in terms of nuclear technology research and development,” said Francois Morin, China director of the World Nuclear Association, a London-based industry group. Western countries aren’t expected to start bringing their own fourth-generation nuclear plants online until the early 2030s, he said.’

Meanwhile, China’s nuclear powered space exploration plans are powering ahead with the testing of its prototype 1.5 megawatt lithium-cooled nuclear power plant for propelling spacecraft

’ A collaboration of more than 10 research institutes and universities across China has made significant strides towards interplanetary travel with the development of a nuclear fission technology that could power large-scale exploration of Mars.

In a paper published by the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ peer-reviewed journal Scientia Sinica Technologica, the research team said its prototype lithium-cooled nuclear reactor system has passed some initial ground tests.

The results confirmed some of the key technological solutions invented by Chinese scientists and engineers to shrink a megawatt-class reactor – seven times more powerful than a rival system being built by Nasa – to an unprecedented size, they said.’

‘Design work for Nasa’s 20 kilowatt nuclear reactor – which is being built by Lockheed Martin, Westinghouse, and private start-up company IX – is expected to be completed by 2025. The US space agency hopes to send this device to the moon in the early 2030s.’


Well! How do you like that. People say they are going to something, do it, and then they are way ahead.

I is kind of a no brainer.



Some recent developments here in North America…

TerraPower has submitted a construction permit application to build a demonstration nuclear power plant in Wyoming. TerraPower is a nuclear startup company headed by Bill Gates and Nathan Myhrvold of Microsoft fame. They plan to build at an existing coal plant site owned by one of Warren Buffett’s companies. Start of construction of some of the non-nuclear portions of the plant could be this summer, even though full design certification of the reactor has not yet been issued.

From the link:
Natrium technology features a 345 MWe sodium-cooled fast reactor using high-assay low-enriched uranium fuel, with a molten salt-based energy storage system that can boost the system’s output to 500 MWe for more than five and a half hours when needed. TerraPower plans to build the Natrium demonstration plant near a retiring coal facility at Kemmerer in Wyoming.

The company said it has been working closely with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in pre-application meetings and is confident in its application. The demonstration plant’s design means that non-nuclear construction will begin this summer, while nuclear construction will begin after the application has been approved, the company said. The completed demonstration project will be a fully functioning commercial power plant.

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Earlier this year, the Canadian nuclear regulator found that licensing of X-Energy’s gas-cooled reactor can continue, with no big problems foreseen.

X-Energy is working with TransAlta to install one or more of their reactors in Alberta, Canada.

  • Pete

Good. 678901234567

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We’ve been discussing Terrapower here

The TRISO approach is quite interesting - let’s hope it pans out in actual usage