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China develops fuel efficient nuclear reactor: report

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.

world Updated: Jul 22, 2010 20:20 IST

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 reactor programme.

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 today.

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 per cent. 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 Geological Sciences.