First Commercial AP1000, EPR Reactors Connected to Grid

Two nuclear energy milestones were reached in the past week, as the world’s first commercial AP1000 and EPR reactors were connected to China’s power grid.

Westinghouse announced Sanmen 1, the first AP1000 unit, was connected to the grid June 30, one day after Électricité de France (EDF) connected the first EPR reactor—Taishan 1—to the system. The EPR is a third-generation pressurized water reactor, with technology by EDF and France’s Framatome. Taishan 1 is the first of two, 1.7-GW reactors at the site, which is owned by TNPJVC, a joint venture of China General Nuclear (CGN), which owns 51%; EDF, which owns 30%; and Yuedian, a Chinese electric company that owns 19%.

The 1.1-GW Sanmen 1 reactor is the first of four new AP1000 plants under construction in eastern China. The AP1000, also a pressurized water reactor, is the technology being used for two new reactors at the Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia. Unit 3 at Vogtle is scheduled to come online in November 2021, with Unit 4 following a year later.

Agneta Rising, director of the World Nuclear Association, in a statement said, “Having two new reactors start producing electricity in two days is great news for the climate and sustainable development. Having two brand new advanced reactor designs connected to the grid is great news for nuclear innovation. It’s a major industry development which should lead to a brightening of global nuclear prospects.”

EDF said fuel loading at Taishan 1 began April 10. The first chain reaction occurred June 6, and main generator and grid connection tests were completed on June 29. The reactor is now undergoing gradual power-up tests, which will be followed by tests in steady-state conditions at full power.

Construction of Unit 1 at Taishan began in 2009, with construction of Unit 2 starting in 2010. Taishan was completed ahead of two other EPR projects that have been delayed—the Olkiluoto 3 plant in Finland and the Flamanville 3 project in France. Olkiluoto 3 project developer Teollisuuden Voima Oyj last month said that unit is scheduled to be connected to the grid in May 2019. EDF recently said the start-up of Flamanville 3, already delayed for years, may be delayed again by several months due to pipe welding issues. Its tentative start-up date is now late 2019.

“A number of factors contributed to Taishan 1 being the world’s first EPR to go on line: it has benefited from a longstanding strategic partnership between EDF and CGN, from both partners’ experience in the construction and operation of nuclear power plants, and from the support of leading players in both countries’ nuclear sectors,” EDF said in a statement.

“During the initial stage of the project, Taishan also benefited from the experience of the two European EPR projects (Flamanville 3 and Olkiluoto 3), which had started being built earlier on,” the French company said.

Sanmen 1 is owned by China State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) and CNNC Sanmen Nuclear Power Co. Ltd. (SMNPC). Jose Emeterio Gutierrez, president and CEO of Westinghouse, in a statement said the project “would not have been possible without the constant collaboration and partnership with our China customer.”

Connection of the two plants in China came just days after General Electric (GE) and EDF officially announced their supply agreement for the 9.9-GW Jaitapur nuclear plant in India, the world’s largest nuclear construction project. EDF and Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd. (NPCIL) in March signed an agreement for EDF to supply technology and manage construction of Jaitapur, while NPCIL will own and operate the facility. The deal signed by GE and EDF on June 26 says GE Power will design the conventional island, supply the main components, and provide operational support services for the project. EDF will install the plant, including the nuclear island, conventional island, and auxiliary systems.

“EDF and GE Power will move forward with the work currently being performed to freeze the project’s technical options, fine-tune industrial arrangements between both companies and finalize the design-engineering and procurement schedule,” GE said in a statement.

Though construction of new reactors has been rare in the U.S. over the past several decades—POWER’s 2018 Plant of the Year, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar Unit 2, which entered commercial operation in 2016, was the first new U.S. nuclear unit in more than two decades—the industry is growing elsewhere, with several milestones reached in recent months. China this year is expected to schedule the construction of as many as eight new reactors. The country recently signed an agreement with Russia for four new reactors, after the completion of the Tianwan 3 and 4 units earlier this year. The units at Tianwan are AES-91 VVER-1000 pressurized water reactor technology designed by Gidropress and supplied by Russian state nuclear company Rosatom. Units 1 and 2 at Tianwan, which are similar VVER-1000 reactors, came online in 2007.

Rosatom also recently signed agreements with Nigeria to support that country’s move toward its first nuclear power plant.

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).