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China starts excavation for world's first 3G nuclear plant
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China began excavation for the foundations of the world's most advanced nuclear reactor in Sanmen City in the eastern Zhejiang Province on Tuesday.

The No. 1 reactor in Sanmen nuclear power plant will use the third-generation AP1000 technology, which was transferred from the US-based Westinghouse Consortium. It has never been used in any operating power plant previously, said Zhao Hong, a State Nuclear Power Technology Corp. (SNPTC) engineer.

Builders plan to excavate a hole 12 meters deep and more than 20 meters in diameter to house the reactor. It is expected to go into commercial operation in 2013.

"The excavation started one month earlier than the original plan thanks to the support from all sides," Zhao said, adding concrete pouring would start in March 2009.

Sanmen Nuclear Power Corp. (SNPC) will install six AP1000 nuclear generating units, each with a power capacity of 1.25 million kilowatts, before eventually becoming self-sufficient in the AP1000 technology.

The excavation marked China's first step to build the most advanced nuclear power plant in the world, and China would play a leading role in the nuclear technology once the project was finished, said Kennon Hess, director of the Joint Project Management Organization (JPMO), which was formed by SNPTC, SNPC and Westinghouse Consortium.

In July, China reached an agreement with Westinghouse Electric Co. to build four nuclear power plants in the country -- two in Sanmen and two in Haiyang City in the eastern Shandong Province.

The construction of the Haiyang plant will begin later this year.

Westinghouse says the AP1000 uses less cable, piping and valves than the previous generation of reactors, cutting costs and reducing the need for large cooling towers, redundant pumps and other equipment.

China currently has 11 nuclear generating units in operation. Three use domestic technologies, two are Russian, four are French and two are Canadian designed. All employ second-generation technologies.

During the month-long snow hit this winter, the 11 units generated power of about 5.8 billion kilowatt hours. The amount corresponded to power generated from 1.7 million tonnes of standard coal, which required 340 trains to carry, statistics from China National Nuclear Corp showed.

According to the government plan, China will have an installed nuclear power capacity of 40 million kw by 2020, accounting for four percent of the country's total.

(Xinhua News Agency February 27, 2008)

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