Scientists there have reported successfully testing the country’s first so-called ‘fourth generation’ reactor.

Zhang Donghui, general manager of the China Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) project, said: “The CEFR is safer, more environment-friendly, and more economic than its predecessors.”

While China remains largely reliant on coal for its electricity generation, it has a growing number of nuclear power stations.

At present, the country’s energy generation is made up 70% from coal, 18% from hydro, 10% from gas and 2% nuclear.

Its existing 11 nuclear reactors supplying power to the grid are all second-generation and based mainly in the industrialised Guandong and Zhenjiang provinces.

Construction is underway on a number of reactors using third-generation pressurised water reactors employing technology developed in the USA in 2009.

State-owned news service Xinhua said that the fourth generation reactor, known as the China Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR), marked a breakthrough for the country’s nuclear technology.

While the jury is still out on the environmental credentials of nuclear energy, the fourth generation plant performs better than most.

CEFR boasts a utility rate of uranium of more than 60% compared to third generation reactors, which have a utility rate of just one per cent.

A new recycling technology called pyroprocessing is also used to close the fuel cycle by separating the unused fuel from most of the radioactive waste.

David Gibbs

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie