Scientists are concerned about China’s outdated nuclear reactor

Instead of using common technologies that bring high efficiency, China chose to build a nuclear power plant that generates more plutonium than usual.

On a small, deserted island in Fujian province, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) is building two unusual nuclear reactors, attracting the attention and concern of the international scientific community. economic. It is expected that the plants will be completed and put into operation between 2023 and 2026. They use a technology called China’s 600 Rapid Reactor (CFR-600).

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Location of Changbiao island, where China is building two nuclear power plants. Photo: Aljazeera.

According to the Al Jazeera, unlike the common nuclear power plants in the world, this is a regenerative reactor (Breeder reactor). During operation, it produces more radioactive material than is used. That makes scientists question the purpose of this project.

Outdated, inefficient technology

The goal of nuclear power plants is to use as much fuel as possible, not create more atomic waste. This is especially true when the reactor produces plutonium – a substance that easily turns into a dangerous weapon.

In the history of nuclear power, regenerative reactor plants were soon replaced by more advanced and more efficient technologies. Developed countries such as the US, UK, and Germany soon ended the project using Breeder reactor.

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Inside a nuclear reactor using Russia’s Breeder reactor technology. Photo: Getty Images.

However, China does not think so. The CFR-600 is a sodium-cooled fast neutron reactor. Instead of using water, like most operating nuclear power plants in the world, it is cooled by liquid sodium, with a wider temperature range and less interactions than water.

Inside the CFR-600 is a mixed oxide (MOX), made from radioactive waste plutonium and depleted uranium. This is the next step in the development of domestic nuclear technology. China started this plan in 2003 with the design Experimental fast reactor (CEFR).

In particular, instead of developing on a more advanced platform such as a light water nuclear reactor, which is widely used around the world with good efficiency, China has chosen technology that consumes more uranium. . Since several decades ago, Breeder reactor has been gradually abandoned due to high fuel costs.

Can it be used for dual purposes?

According to the Al JazeeraAn expert from the US Center for Non-Proliferation Policy Education (NPEC) said that, with the amount of plutonium produced by fast reactors, China could possess 1,270 nuclear warheads by 2030. This is equivalent to the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles currently in the US arsenal.

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The region of China is building nuclear power plants. Photo: CNN.

Two former US Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Non-Proliferation called on governments to respond decisively to China’s move.

“In our view, it is time for the leaders of the countries around the Pacific Rim to come together and seriously consider this issue. Is that (China’s nuclear project) really a good idea for an important, dynamic, and prosperous region, or is it continuing to be entangled in the production of tons of dangerous materials. Instead, look for better alternatives.”

China’s nuclear development program is unclear. The US, Japan and South Korea have all reported their civilian use of plutonium to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but China has not made this public since 2017.

Scientists will likely continue to question regenerative reactors, especially as more and more countries build nuclear power plants to replace carbon-emitting energy sources.

According to the Zing/Al Jazeera

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