China tests first fourth generation nuclear reactor successfully

      China has succeeded in testing its first experimental fast reactor using the mostly homegrown fourth generation nuclear technology. It has become the eighth country in the world to successfully master such technology. "This is a significant step in China 's nuclear program," the China Daily quoted Zhao Zhixiang, dean of the China Institute of Atomic Energy, as saying. The fast reactor program was set up with a total investment of 2.5 billion Yuan (369 million dollars). "The fast reactor will extend China 's utilization of proven and verified uranium resources to 1,000 years from less than 100 years through the existing pressurized water reactors," Zhang Donghui, general manager of the fast reactor program, said. China plans to set up 60 new nuclear reactors and have a nuclear power productivity of around 75 million kilowatts by 2020. It is also constructing 23 machine sets to harness nuclear power, the largest among the 57 such sets in the world, the report said. Fast reactors that run on the fourth-generation technology differ from others in that they are able to utilize the fuel in a more optimal way so as to reduce the overall energy costs significantly. The technology would lift the uranium usage ratio to as high as 70 percent from existing one percent. In the long run, it is expected to considerably reduce the nation's reliance on foreign fuel imports. According to Yan Qiang, a researcher with Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences , China currently produces around 750 tons of uranium. The demand-supply gap of uranium is expected to exceed 10,000 tons by 2015 and reach nearly 30,000 tons by 2030. Thomas Neff, a physicist and uranium-industry analyst at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge has said that China is likely to double its uranium purchases to around 5,000 metric tons this year to build stockpiles for its new reactors.

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