Major Milestones for Chinese AP1000s: Sanmen I has First Criticality, Haiyang I Approved for First Fuel Load
First Criticality at Sanmen I
On June 22, 2018, Chinese media reported that the world's AP1000 at the Sanmen site in China's eastern Zhejiang province had achieved its first sustained nuclear fission reaction. With this key milestone, Sanmen Unit 1 has moved yet one step closer to grid connection and eventual commercial operation, which is still predicted for the end of this year. The AP1000 at Sanmen was designed by Westinghouse Electric Company and is majority-owned by the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). The holder of the technology and primary project operator on the Chinese side is the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC), which is a business unit within the massive Chinese electricity utility State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC). The Sanmen Unit 1 plant began construction in 2009 and is more than 4 years delayed relative to the original construction schedule. As a new reactor design with numerous first-of-a-kind technology applications, the Sanmen 1 AP1000 encountered numerous challenges to its original construction timeline, including technology re-designs, faulty equipment manufacturing, hiccups in construction project management, and lengthy regulator-mandated safety reviews. Nicobar anticipates that no less than 6-10 additional Chinese reactors will begin construction in the months following the successful commercial operation of Sanmen 1, including AP1000 sites at Lufeng and Xudapu, the CAP1400s at Shidaowan, and potentially more AP1000s at Sanmen and Haiyang Phase II.
First Fuel Load at Haiyang I
A day prior, on June 21, 2018, Chinese media also reported that the AP1000 at Haiyang Unit 1 in Shandong Province had received authorization from the NNSA to load fuel for the first time. Haiyang Unit 1 will become the second Chinese AP1000 reactor to load fuel, after Sanmen Unit 1. Haiyang Unit 1 will become the first operating nuclear asset that is majority-owned by the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (as opposed to simply being the technology license holder and operator). It is anticipated that the Haiyang 1 operation will provide a much-needed injection of operating cash for SNPTC, which has seen its key asset's completion delayed for 4+ years. An aggressive timeline for completion would mirror that of Sanmen 1, and see Haiyang 1 entering commercial operation by Q4 2018 or Q1 2019 at the latest. Haiyang 1 poured first concrete in September 2009.