World’s First EPR Nuclear Unit Begins Commercial Operation

Unit 1 of the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant completed its final regulatory test of continuous operation and full power for 168 hours on Dec. 13, marking the final milestone toward achievement of commercial operation, China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) and EDF announced at a joint press conference held in Beijing, China, on Dec. 14.

The Taishan plant consists of two EPR reactors of 1,750 MW each (Figure 1). EDF subsidiary Framatome supplied the third-generation technology, which is also being installed at Olkiluoto 3 in Finland (under construction since August 2005) and at Flamanville 3 in France (under construction since December 2007). The Taishan units began construction in November 2009.

1. Taishan Nuclear Power Plant. Courtesy: EDF

Cost overruns and schedule delays have plagued all the EPR units. However, the trouble hasn’t kept the technology from being selected for other projects. On July 28, 2016, EDF’s board of directors made a final investment decision giving the go-ahead to construct two nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point C in Somerset, England. EDF and CGN are also partnering on the Sizewell C project in the UK, which will have two EPRs. In March 2018, EDF inked a deal with India’s state-owned nuclear operator, Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd., setting out the industrial framework for a massive six-unit, 9.9-GW project utilizing EPR technology. That facility will be the world’s largest nuclear power plant when completed.

“The entry into operation of Taishan 1 marks the culmination of a strategic project supported by French and Chinese heads of state. As the world’s first EPR, Taishan 1 will be an important building block for similar reactors around the world and will serve as a model for the joint Hinkley Point C project in Britain, supported by CGN and EDF,” He Yu, chairman of CGN, said in a press release.

EDF said about 40 French companies, more than 200 French engineers, and more than 15,000 workers have participated in the project. Nearly 800 workers will be needed to operate the two reactors after Taishan 2 begins commercial operation, which is expected next year.

“The commercial commissioning of Taishan 1, the first EPR in the world, is a success of the entire French nuclear industry. It demonstrates the capacity of the sector to design a third-generation reactor in compliance with the highest standards of safety and quality. The EPR is an important asset to the challenge that many countries face: meeting the growth in electricity demand while reducing their CO2 emissions. The Taishan project also illustrates our approach to developing nuclear projects around the world, based on partnerships with trusted players such as CGN,” said Jean-Bernard Lévy, chairman and CEO of EDF.

Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine).