On Dec. 6, China’s National Energy Administration announced that a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor, at the Shidao Bay Nuclear power plant, had successfully completed a 168-hour non-stop test and had officially been put into operation. The helium gas cooled-reactor is a fourth generation nuclear plant, more advanced than third generation reactors currently in use; it has 400,000 spherical fuel elements, giving it the name of pebble bed, as the Daily Alert reported on Dec. 8.
But while the West sleeps, China is moving itself and Asia rapidly forward in the nuclear field. In June, the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences was granted an operating license for its experimental thorium-powered molten-salt reactor in Wuwei City, Gansu province, another fourth-generation reactor, though working from a different design.
In 2022, China’s nuclear authorities gave authorization for the construction of 10 new nuclear plants, after which they granted authorization in 2023 for the construction of another 6 nuclear plants. Currently, China has 24 nuclear power plants under construction, with a combined capacity of 26.81 million kilowatts, which constitutes just under half the nuclear plants under construction in the world. It already has 55 operating nuclear power plants.