SHANGHAI (Reuters) - The world’s first third-generation AP1000 reactor designed by U.S.-based Westinghouse is expected to be completed in China by November, the official Science Daily reported on Tuesday, citing a senior Chinese executive.
The AP1000 unit in Sanmen in the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang was expected to reach criticality at the end of June and go into commercial operation by November, Chen Hua, chairman of the China National Nuclear Power Corp (CNNP) (601985.SS) was quoted as saying.
China agreed in 2007 to build four AP1000 units, including two at Sanmen and two at Haiyang in Shandong province. The first was originally scheduled to be completed in 2014, but it has been beset by safety concerns and design changes.
The project was delayed again in February, but fuel loading was finally approved in April. Criticality is the start of the fission process.
Westinghouse, owned by Japan’s Toshiba (6502.T) filed for bankruptcy last year, hit by billions of dollars of cost overruns at four reactors being built in the United States.
It originally saw the AP1000s at Sanmen and Haiyang as a shop window for its technology, and hoped to win more projects in China, one of the few countries with an active civil nuclear programme.
But the disaster at Fukushima in 2011 forced Beijing to suspend new approvals and slow down construction plans, and it is now expected to focus primarily on its own third-generation reactor design known as the Hualong One.
Third generation reactors refer to a series of new models with higher capacity, enhanced safety features and greater fuel efficiency. They also include Areva’s EPR now under construction in France, China, Finland and the United Kingdom.
The Hualong brand is competing with Russia’s VVER design, with Russian state nuclear firm Rosatom last week securing a deal to build four VVER-1200 units in China. The deal included two units at Xudaobao in northeast China’s Liaoning, a site once earmarked for Westinghouse’s AP1000.
China aims to bring total nuclear installed capacity to 58 gigawatts by the end of 2020 and have another 30 GW under construction.
Total capacity stood at 35.8 GW by the end of last year, with nearly 23 GW under construction.
China has not approved any new projects in more than two years, but the government promised in March to commission another six to eight reactors in 2018.
Reporting by David Stanway; editing by Richard Pullin