Monday, January 3, 2011

China declares nuclear breakthrough to solve uranium shortage



China declares nuclear breakthrough

Scientists announce potential solution to country's energy needs through a new technology to reprocess nuclear fuel.


 The new technology is expected to reduce China's heavy reliance on energy from coal-powered plants [GALLO/GETTY]

Chinese scientists have announced a breakthrough in nuclear fuel reprocessing technology that could end the country's energy supply problems, state media have said.

The technology developed by state-run China National Nuclear Corp will enable the re-use of irradiated nuclear fuel, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Monday.

The technology developed and tested at the factory in the Gobi desert in the remote Gansu province will be able to boost the usage rate of uranium materials at nuclear plants by 60 folds.

"China's proven uranium sources will last only 50 to 70 years, but with the new technology [the] existing detected uranium resources can be used for 3,000 years," the CCTV report said.

The development is an important step forward in China's plans to increase the share of alternative power sources in its energy mix to reduce pollution and achieve energy security.

China has stepped up investment in nuclear power in an effort to slash carbon emissions and reduce the nation's heavy reliance on polluting coal, which presently accounts for 70 per cent of its power needs.

China, as well as France, the United Kingdom and Russia, actively support reprocessing as a means for the management of highly radioactive spent fuel and as a source of fissile material for future nuclear fuel supply.
But independent scientists argued that commercial application of nuclear fuel reprocessing has always been hindered by cost, technology, proliferation risk and safety challenges.

China has 171,400 tonnes of proven uranium resources spread mainly in eight provinces – Jiangxi, Guangdong, Hunan, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Liaoning and Yunnan.

Modest expansion
With a massive plans to push into nuclear power, China is making an effort to wean itself off coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel. It now has 12 working reactors with 10.15 gigawatt of total generating capacity.

Beijing has set an official target of 40 gigawatts of installed nuclear generating capacity by 2020, but the government indicated it could double the goal to about 80 gigawatts as faster expansion was one of the more feasible solutions for achieving emissions reduction goals.

As such, China will need to source more than 60 per cent of the uranium needed for its nuclear power plants from overseas by 2020, even if the country moves forward with a modest nuclear expansion plan, Chinese researchers say.

China, now the world's second-largest economy after surpassing Japan in 2010, aims to get 15 per cent of its power from renewable sources by 2020.

 

Source:Agencie
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Nuclear fuel feat to solve uranium shortage

China has made a breakthrough in spent nuclear fuel reprocessing technology, which could greatly extend uranium's usage rate and potentially solve the problem of its supply shortage.

The technology, which was developed by the No 404 factory under the China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC), is able to boost the usage rate of uranium materials at nuclear plants by 60 times.

"With the new technology, China's existing detected uranium resources can be used for 3,000 years," according to China Central Television (CCTV) on Monday.

China, the world's second largest economy, has more than 170,000 tons of detected uranium resources.

"We're among the few countries that can implement the recycling of nuclear fuel As such, we, to some extent, lead the world in this field," Sun Qin, general manger of CNNC, China's largest nuclear generator, was quoted by CCTV as saying.

The nation has strived to extend the usage rate of the strategically important resource to meet growing demand. The country aims to increase its nuclear power capacity to 40 gigawatts (gW) by 2020 compared to just more than 9 gW of nuclear capacity at present.

China, as one of the world's largest energy consumers, now has 12 nuclear power plants in operation, with 25 reactors under construction.

Uranium demand in China is expected to reach 20,000 tons annually by 2020, according to figures from the World Nuclear Association. But China will be able to produce only 2,400 tons of uranium that year.

China used 1,300 to 1,600 tons of uranium in 2009, Reuters reported earlier.

The world has around 4.7 million metric tons of identified uranium minerals. Increasing usage has sparked concerns that uranium demand may eclipse supply soon.

Extending the usage of existing uranium will help China fulfill its target to cut greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP by 40 to 45 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels.

"China has invested heavily in uranium exploration know-how and recycling technology to meet the nation's burgeoning needs and increase the ratio of nuclear energy in the total energy consumption mix," said Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University.

He added that such technology, including the recycling of spent nuclear fuel, is still at a very early stage. If it can be put into practical use, then China can be self-sufficient, he said.

Nuclear power accounted for about 2.2 percent of China's electricity generation by the end of 2009. By contrast, of the 30 countries that have nuclear power generators, 16 had 25 percent of their total electricity produced by nuclear power.

China Daily 
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1 comment:

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