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How China's nuke plants will last 3000 years

Last updated on: January 3, 2011 13:29 IST

How China's nuke plants will last 3000 years

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China has claimed a breakthrough in extracting uranium and plutonium from spent fuel, saying this would enable the country to run its nuclear power plants for three thousand years with existing uranium resources.

After decades of research, China has made a breakthrough in extracting uranium and plutonium from spent fuel, state-run CCTV announced on Monday.

It said China plans to set up 60 new nuclear reactors mostly 1000 mw or more and have a nuclear power productivity of around 75 million kilowatts by 2020.

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Under the current nuclear power technology, only three-to-four per cent of nuclear fuel can be used. But, spent fuel possesses much more power and generates new nuclear material during its burn up, but is abandoned after its initial use.

The new technology will make nuclear materials 60 times more efficient, it said.

By using the new technology, uranium materials detected in China could fuel the country's nuclear power plants for up to 3000 years.

Currently they can only fuel plants from between 50-70 years, the report said.

It was regarded as a significant breakthrough as China, which has 12 nuclear power plants is rapidly expanding nuclear power base with 23 more mega plants under construction.



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China is also committed to build three more nuclear power plants to Pakistan, including a giant gigawatt reactor.

China in the past relied mostly on US, EU and Japanese companies to build the nuclear plants, but in the last couple of year more indigenous companies acquired the know how to build the mega plants.

Besides this China is also constructing 23 machine sets to harness nuclear power, the largest among the 57 such sets in the world.

Recent reports said China is already stockpiling big quantities of uranium to meet future demand.

China currently produces around 750 tons of uranium.



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The demand-supply gap of uranium is expected to exceed 10,000 tons by 2015 and reach nearly 30,000 tons by 2030, according to local experts.

China is likely to double its uranium purchases to around 5,000 metric tons to build stockpiles for new reactors, according to Thomas Neff, a physicist and uranium-industry analyst at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

Also China Uranium Development Co Ltd last year acquired a majority stake in Australian miner Energy Metals Ltd, which has access to large quantity of uranium resources.

Uranium prices have been firmed up in 2010 due to a surge in demand and a dwindling of global proven resources.



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Added to this is also the long gestation time for successfully mining uranium from new finds.

China said last July that its fuel efficient experimental reactor using home grown fourth generation nuclear technology attained criticality, holding out promise to reduce energy costs significantly.

The technology will also lift the uranium usage ratio to as high as 70 percent from existing one percent.

In the long run, it will also considerably reduce the nation's reliance on foreign fuel imports.

China was regarded as the eighth country to successfully master the technology.



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