China begins construction of a pilot fast breeder reactor

China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced that it had started construction of the new 600 MWe fast breeder reactor, China Fast Reactor 600 or CFR-600, at Xiapu, Fujian province. The reactor is expected to begin operations in 2023.

The CFR-600 design, developed by the China Institute of Atomic Energy, is based on that of the China Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) that was built with Russian assistance. The 20 MWe CEFR went critical in 2010 and was connected to the grid in 2011. That reactor uses uranium oxide HEU fuel (64.4% HEU), supplied by Russia.

CFR-600 is designed to use uranium oxide or MOX fuel. Irradiation tests of MOX fuel assemblies in CEFR are expected to begin at the end of 2018 and post-irradiation tests - in 2020. It is not clear if China will be able to produce enough civilian plutonium to support operations of the reactor. It started construction of a 200 tons/year demonstration reprocessing plant in Jiuquan, Gansu province and is negotiating a purchase of a 800 tons/year reprocessing plant and a MOX fuel fabrication facility from Areva.