The last two days in June 2018 saw the first power generation from two separate first of a kind nuclear plants in China. Taishan 1, a 1650 MWe European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) was connected to the grid at 5:59 pm local time on June 29, 2018. Less than 24 hours later, at 4:48 pm local time, Sanmen 1, a Westinghouse AP1000 rated at 1117 MWe was connected to the grid and began producing power for the first time.
Both of these milestones were substantially later than originally planned when their initial contracts were signed in November 2007 and September 2007 respectively. All members of the large teams that powered through challenges and contradicted naysayers deserve to feel a sense of accomplishment for a job done well, even if not done as quickly as all would have liked.
When construction began on Sanmen 1 in 2009, it was the world’s first AP1000 to reach that milestone. It is the first unit of a four reactor order for a consortium of Chinese utility companies; all three subsequent units are currently on track to begin commercial operation by the end of 2019. Sanmen 1 received its fuel loading permit on April 25 and began loading fuel on the same day. The second plant in the series, Haiyang 1 started loading fuel on June 21. If it follows the same schedule as the lead unit, it should achieve initial criticality in early August and connect to the grid by the end of August. The other two units are approximately 6 months behind the lead units.
When Taishan 1 construction started in 2009, it was the third EPR, following Okliluto and Flammanville. China General Nuclear Power International (CGN) was less timid than the owners of those two single unit projects; it decided to purchase and construct two units in a series on the same site. Fifty years worth of commercial nuclear plant experience indicates that two unit sites have better overall economics than single unit.
Both by incorporating early lessons from the first two EPR projects and being able to build on more recent nuclear plant construction and oversight experience, Taishan 1 overtook and passed the two EPRs that were started several years earlier to become the world’s first EPR to produce useful power.
When all six reactors are completed and operating, they will add more than 7.7 GWe in nuclear generating capacity to the Chinese grid. If they operate at a capacity factor of 80% they will generate a total of more than 54 billion kilowatt hours of emission-free electricity each year.
There’s still a lot of work to be done and operating experience to gain, but it’s nice to be able to note such important milestones.