Beijing: China, which is rapidly
expanding its nuclear power base, said its fuel efficient
experimental atomic reactor using fourth generation nuclear
technology attained criticality, holding out promise to reduce
energy costs significantly.
China`s endeavour to increase the use of clean energy
got a big boost after an experimental fast reactor using the
mostly home grown fourth-generation nuclear technology reached
the critical state.
"The fast reactor will extend China`s utilisation of
proven and verified uranium resources to 1,000 years from less
than 100 years through the existing pressurised water
reactors," said Zhang Donghui, general manager of the fast
The fast reactor programme has been set up with a
total investment of 2.5 billion yuan (USD 369 million) and
China is the eighth country to successfully master the
technology, he said.
"This is a significant step in China`s nuclear
programme," Zhao Zhixiang, Dean of China Institute of Atomic
Energy, was quoted as saying by the state-run China Daily on Thursday.
Fast reactors that run on the fourth-generation
technology differ from others in that they are able to utilise
the fuel in a more optimal way so as to reduce the overall
energy costs significantly.
The technology will also lift the uranium usage ratio
to as high as 70 percent from existing one percent. In the
long run, it will also considerably reduce the nation`s
reliance on foreign fuel imports.
The official media projected it as a significant
breakthrough as China, which has 12 nuclear power plants under
operation with 23 under construction.
China plans to set up 60 new nuclear reactors, mostly
1000 mw or more and have a nuclear power productivity of
around 75 million kilowatts by 2020. The country is also
constructing 23 machine sets to harness nuclear power, the
largest among the 57 such sets in the world.
Recent reports said China is already stockpiling big
quantities of uranium to meet future demand.
Uranium prices have been firming up recently due to a
surge in demand and a dwindling of global proven resources.
Added to this is also the long gestation time for successfully
mining uranium from new finds.
China currently produces around 750 tonnes of uranium.
The demand-supply gap in uranium is expected to exceed 10,000
tonnes by 2015 and reach nearly 30,000 tonnes by 2030,
according to Yan Qiang, a researcher with Chinese Academy of
With the bulk of the nuclear energy likely to be used
for meeting China`s power needs, demand for the clean energy
is also expected to surge, said Yan.
China is likely to double its uranium purchases to
around 5,000 metric tonnes this year to build stockpiles for
new reactors, said Thomas Neff, a physicist and
uranium-industry analyst at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology in Cambridge.
China Uranium Development Co Ltd recently acquired a
majority stake in Australian miner Energy Metals Ltd.