Chinese city heated by nuclear power pushes China’s green ambitions

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Haiyang city in eastern Shandong province became the first to fully heat its homes with nuclear power, making it China’s only “zero carbon” city, state broadcaster China reported on Tuesday. Central Television.

The two nuclear reactors that power Haiyang would be the world’s largest nuclear power and heat cogeneration project, and could replace 12 local coal-fired boilers and save 100,000 tons of raw coal, according to the State Power Investment Corporation, the one of the top five power generation companies in the country. Nuclear power plants will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 180,000 tonnes, the equivalent of 29,146 cars driven for a year, as well as indirect greenhouse gases such as nitrogen oxides and dioxide sulfur each heating season.

Coal-fired power plants used to heat homes and power plants contribute significantly to China’s carbon emissions and cover cities with smog during the winter months. However, with the ambition to reach a peak in carbon emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060, the country is turning to other forms of clean energy, notably nuclear energy.

While the transmission of heat from nuclear power plants to industrial sites is common practice, the channeling of nuclear heat to residential areas is still not widely used. Only a handful of countries such as Russia, Switzerland, Sweden and some Eastern European countries have launched nuclear fuel district heating programs.

Interior view of Haiyang Nuclear Power Plant, Shandong Province. People visual

Haiyang’s first nuclear power plant unit began operations in October 2018, and the second unit opened in January of the following year. Since then, the two nuclear reactors have generated around 50 billion kilowatts of energy, according to media reports.

Currently, the city only uses energy from the first reactor for its heating project, which covered 7,000 residents when it went into operation in November 2019. The system went on hiatus last year, apparently due to ‘a “technical failure”, but resumed operations. earlier this month with plans to heat the entire city of 200,000.

Wu Fang, chairman of Shandong Nuclear Power Co. Ltd., which is responsible for the Haiyang power plants, told national media that the water used to cool the nuclear reactor does not come into direct contact with the heating pipe networks. residential, addressing concerns about possible nuclear radiation contamination. Instead, the heat produced in the factories is routed to an offsite heat exchange station, where the heated water flows through municipal heating pipes.

“It’s just a heat transfer process,” Wu said. “There is no exchange of materials like water. We have ensured that the heating is clean and safe for users.

China currently has 51 nuclear reactors – compared to 94 in the United States and 56 in France – and is one of the world’s largest producers of nuclear power, ranking third in the world, both for total installed nuclear capacity. and power generation, according to the International Atomic Agency.

To mitigate climate change, China has actively increased the share of non-fossil fuels – including renewables and nuclear power – in the country’s national energy mix. It plans to use 25% cleaner energy by 2030, compared to just over 15% in 2019.

Haiyang’s push for nuclear heating comes amid power shortages in many parts of the country due to an imbalance in the coal market and a drive to cut carbon emissions. According to local media, the city’s project alone is expected to reduce electricity consumption by 9 million kilowatts each winter.

Wei Hanyang, electricity market analyst at Bloomberg New Energy, told China Daily that the Haiyang plant is the country’s first commercial attempt to provide heat from nuclear power. He added that China was in the process of approving a nuclear thermal power plant in northeast Heilongjiang Province, which will be the first indoor reactor not to be associated with power generation.

“The two efforts in Shandong and Heilongjiang underscore China’s resolve to decarbonize its energy-intensive heating sector,” Wei said.

Publisher: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: A view of the Haiyang Nuclear Power Plant in Shandong Province. People Visual)


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