For the first time in the world, an EPR nuclear reactor has been commissioned, in the south of China – the demonstration, for its manufacturers, that this French third-generation technology “is a promise for the future”, despite its setbacks.
Successfully connected in June to the Chinese power grid, the first of two EPR reactors built in Taishan, Guangdong Province, has since gone through a phase of testing and simulating incidents.
After a final test of continuous operation at full power for 168 hours, completed on Thursday, it was declared ready to enter into service, announced Friday the French energy giant EDF and Chinese CGN during a press conference.
EDF is a 30% shareholder in the joint venture to build and operate the reactor. The Chinese groups CGN and Yuedian have respective interests 51% and 19%.
The reactor “has brought together all the conditions for its commercial commissioning. This is a major milestone in EDF’s cooperation with CGN, which demonstrates the maturity of the EPR technology which is a promise for the future of nuclear technologies,” said Fabrice Fourcade, president of EDF China.
“The success of the project shows the technological performance of the EPR, it is a totally reliable technology,” said Guo Limin, general manager of the French-Chinese joint venture, Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Company.
The second Taishan reactor is expected to be operational in 2019.
The European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR), with a capacity of 1750 MW, is based on pressurized water reactor technology, the most widely used in the world.
Chairman of the joint venture Gao Ligang, for his part, congratulated 40 years of cooperation between EDF and CGN, made concrete with the construction in the 80s by the first Chinese power station, Daya Bay.
The very first project, that of Olkiluoto in Finland started in 2005 but has been plagued with delays. It is now scheduled to open in 2019, 10 years behind schedule.
“We have benefited a lot from feedback from Finland and France,” said Guo Limin.
Conversely, while the EPR has suffered additional costs, delays and setbacks, especially in Finland and Flamanville (France), the partners believe that “the success” of Taishan can today serve as a lesson. This success has been achieved in particular thanks to the “synergy of French and Chinese industries” and a “high-level coordination” between the nine main companies involved in the project, they stressed.
“The success of Taishan can now help other EPR operators,” said Guo.
“As the world’s first EPR, Taishan 1 will be an important step in the construction of similar reactors around the world and will serve as a model for the joint project of Hinkley Point C in Great Britain carried by CGN and EDF”, also commented in a statement the president of the China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN).
Last year EDF mentioned a risk of delay (15 months) and additional cost (+1.7 billion euros) for the two Hinkley Point reactors.
Regarding Taishan, neither EDF nor its Chinese partner have specified the cost of the project. “The work is not completely finished,” said Guo to explain the lack of transparency.
But the official also stressed that “the costs of the EPR could be reduced, for more profitability”.
No indication was given either about the extension of cooperation beyond the first two reactors. “We would be very happy to continue cooperation, but the decision does not belong to EDF. It is the responsibility of CGN and the Chinese government,” said Fabrice Fourcade.
“We can still work together to conquer more markets internationally,” Guo said.
But China is also building its own 3rd generation reactor, Hualong, a project of which CGN is a partner, and has also started the AP1000 of the American Westinghouse.