Chinese firm to develop nuclear district heating plant

In a bid to cut down on pollution from coal-fired power during the winter months, a Chinese nuclear company has launched a project to develop a heat-only nuclear reactor designed to provide district heating.

China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), a global nuclear player, aims to produce a 400 MW deep pool low-temperature heating reactor that could produce enough heat for around 200,000 homes.

The company has already produced a demonstration reactor which successfully heated around 50 households for 168 hours. Construction on a full-scale project is planned to begin by the end of next year.

So-called ‘swimming pool reactors’ consist of a concrete and steel reactor pool measuring about 10 metres across by 20 metres deep. A nuclear core sunk in the water can produce up to 400 MW, heating the water to 90 degrees C for distribution via an existing heat network.à‚ 

The cost of building a heat-only reactor has been estimated at RMB1.3bn-1.4bn (around $200m). By comparison, a full-scale nuclear power plant can cost in the region of $25bn and up.

CNNC is also reportedly upgrading a pool-type reactor built for research in the 1960s to heat two Beijing office buildings.

Image: example of ‘swimming pool’ reactor from North Carolina State University/Wikipedia

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