A worker performs a soldering job at a factory in Qinhuangdao, Hebei province, which makes equipment for the HTGR reactor plant at Shidaowan in Shandong province.
China National Nuclear Corp, one of the country's largest nuclear companies, is one step closer to exporting its high-temperature gas cooled reactor projects to countries including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with its HTGR fuel assembly line entering mass production.
The world's first production line for HTGR fuel elements started mass production on Monday at China North Nuclear Fuel, headquartered in Baotou in northern China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region, said the company.
The production of 200,000 spherical fuel elements shows that the fuel assembly line has transitioned from a pilot one into an industrial one, said Wang Shoujun, president of China National Nuclear Corporation, parent company of China North Nuclear Fuel.
"China is cementing its leading position as a manufacturer of HTGR fuel elements," said Wang.
"The HTGR reactors, best known for their inherent safety, versatility and modular construction, are a good fit for economies participating in the Belt and Road Initiative with small and medium-sized power grids."
CNNC has already signed memorandums of understanding with Saudi Arabia and the UAE in HTGR project cooperation, signaling that decades of research on the reactor have paid off, he said.
With government support for overseas expansion, including beneficial terms in getting financing from key financial institutions, many power companies are encouraged to acquire power assets or export their technology and expertise overseas, said Joseph Jacobelli, a senior analyst of Asian utilities and infrastructure at Bloomberg Intelligence.
The Institute for Nuclear and New Energy Technology at Tsinghua University has conducted research on HTGR fuel element technology over the past three decades, starting with a trial production line with an annual capacity of 100,000 spherical fuel elements.
Based on that technology, the production line will have an annual capacity of 300,000 spherical fuel elements, and the production line will provide fuel for the demonstration HTGR reactor plant at Shidaowan in Shandong province.
China has independent intellectual property rights for the production line, which was put into operation in 2016.
The company has vowed to continuously push forward the commercialization of the HTR reactors, striving for more nuclear power consumption in the coming decades, in order to achieve China's pledge to the international community to reduce carbon emissions and generate 20 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2030.
The government has pledged that renewable energy will play a more significant role in green growth, with the share of nonfossil energy reaching 15 percent by 2020 and 20 percent by 2030.
Installed nuclear capacity, which more than doubled to 27.17 GW during the period of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), is expected to double again by 2020 to 58 GW.