Chinese Reactor Is Ahead of Schedule as U.S. Nuclear Projects Flounder

China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC) completed the dome lift at Fuqing Unit 5—the world’s first power plant being constructed utilizing the HPR 1000 (also known as the Hualong One) reactor design—15 days ahead of schedule on May 25.

The feat was no small accomplishment. The dome weighs about 340 metric tons and has a diameter of 46.8 meters (more than half the length of a U.S. football field). It was said to be the world’s largest and highest dome lift ever undertaken at a nuclear construction site (Figure 1). The dome—composed of 153 prefabricated components divided into five layers—ensures the integrity of the unit’s reactor building.

1. Up, up, and away.
The hemispheroid dome was lifted into place on Fuqing Unit 5’s reactor building on May 25. Courtesy: CNNC

“That the dome was lifted 15 days in advance proves that CNNC can construct the HPR 1000 which is a national key project in the field of nuclear power,” Wang Shoujun, chairman of CNNC, said in a press release.

The headway seen in China is in direct contrast to the lack of progress being made at U.S. nuclear projects. Although construction has continued on V.C. Summer Units 2 and 3 in South Carolina and Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4 in Georgia, Westinghouse’s bankruptcy filing in late March has thrown the future of the nuclear projects into question. The bankruptcy was said to be the direct result of cost overruns and schedule delays at the U.S. projects. Now majority owners of the units—SCANA Corp. and Southern Co., respectively—are evaluating their options.

While Fuqing 5 is the lead HPR 1000 reactor, CNNC has three similar units also under construction. The company said all key project construction phases have been completed on or ahead of schedule, making them the only third-generation pressurized water reactor nuclear projects in the world to remain on schedule.

The successful dome lift is just another milestone that is building confidence in China’s nuclear plant construction capability. And the world seems to be noticing. In mid-May, Nucleoeléctrica Argentina SA, CNNC, and CNNC subsidiary China Zhongyuan Engineering Corp. signed a general contract to construct an HPR 1000 unit in Argentina.

“Argentina is confident in the HPR 1000 and the factory site is ready,” Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri said during a May 16 meeting with Wang Shoujun.

Construction on that project is expected to begin in 2020.

Aaron Larson, executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)

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