Unit 4 of the Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant in China entered commercial operation this past weekend after completing commissioning. It began supplying power to the country’s national grid on Dec. 22.

Tianwan NPP is the largest facility built with a Russian-Chinese framework of economic cooperation, with Units 1 through 4 based on the VVER-1000 reactor type. Units 1 and 2 entered commercial operation in 2007, and Rosatom handed over Unit 3 to Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corp. (JNPC) in March of this year.

Tianwan Unit 4 was brought to its minimum controllable power level on Sept. 30, marking the final stage of first criticality procedures, which began Aug. 25 when the first fuel assembly was installed in the reactor. A total of 163 fuel assemblies were ultimately loaded.

Russia’s Atomstroyexport was general contractor for the project, working with JNPC. Alexey Bannik, vice president for projects in China with Rosatom’s engineering division, said the start of commercial operation of Unit 4 “means that a two-year warranty period for the plant operation has commenced, and once expired the Unit will ultimately be handed over to the Chinese Party.”

Four More Units Planned at Tianwan

Construction of Units 5 and 6 at Tianwan continues, with those reactors scheduled to come online over the next three years. Those two reactors are of the ACPR-1000 design. The first reactor utilizing that design began commercial operation this past summer, at Unit 5 of the Yangjiang Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong province.

Another two units, 7 and 8, are scheduled to be built at Tianwan under an agreement JNPC recently signed with Russia and Atomstroyexport. Those units will be third-generation VVER-1200 reactors, the same technology for two other new reactors also included in that deal, at the new Xudabao nuclear site.

Shen Yanfeng, general manager of the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), said Units 3 and 4 at Tianwan, part of what’s called the Tianwan Phase II Project, “combined will increase the electricity generation to 16 to 18 billion kWh per year.” Chinese officials said that while the project was built in concert with Russia, most of the plant’s equipment has been made in China, including the steam generator.

“The steam generator to the nuclear power plant is like the boiler to the power plant, said Zhang Yi, operating director of CNNC. “A horizontal steam generator applied in Russia’s technology has larger water storage than the vertical one in France or the U.S. You know, the larger the storage, the safer the equipment.”

Rosatom last week said it is preparing contracts for the third and fourth power units of at the Xudabao plant, according to company CEO Aleksei Likhachev. “VVER-1200 [reactors] will be contracted at the Xudabao facility as the third and fourth units,” Likhachev said on Dec. 18. He said “construction work will be launched in coming months.”

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