The AFCR and China's fuel cycle
The new joint venture agreement for Advanced Fuel CANDU Reactor (AFCR) development is a clear step towards building new CANDU units, even if thorium takes a back seat to recycling uranium, writes Ian Hore-Lacy, Senior Research Analyst with the World Nuclear Association.
Although China has long focused on pressurized water reactor (PWR) technology, initially from France, in the 1990s China National Nuclear Corporation signed up for a pair of Canadian reactors of quite different design – pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWR).
This puzzled many people at the time, though a feature of them is that they use natural uranium fuel (without any enrichment). From 1998, these CANDU-6 units were built on a turnkey basis, on schedule and under budget, by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd as phase III of Qinshan nuclear power plant near Shanghai. They were commissioned in 2002 and 2003, each delivering 678 MWe net, and have worked well since.