China launches world's first EPR nuclear project in Taishan

BEIJING (Reuters) - The world’s first third-generation “Evolutionary Power Reactor” (EPR) has gone into operation at Taishan in China’s Guangdong province, the French and Chinese developers behind the project announced on Friday.

The 1,750-megawatt EPR, formerly known as the “European Pressurised Reactor” and designed by France’s Areva, completed a 168-hour trial run on Thursday evening, said state-owned China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN).

Its commercial launch can be “a source of inspiration” for other next-generation reactors, Guo Limin, general manager of the Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Company, said at a press briefing in Beijing.

The technology is also being deployed in France, Finland and the China-invested Hinkley Point C project in Britain. It was connected to China’s power grid on a trial basis for the first time in June.

The Taishan nuclear project is 70 percent-owned by CGN, with Electricite de France (EDF) controlling the rest. Areva, designer of the new reactor, is now known as Framatome, which is owned 75.5 percent by EDF.

Construction on two EPR units began at Taishan in 2009 with the first originally scheduled to be completed in 2013, but the design has been beset by a series of technical hitches and big cost overruns in China and elsewhere.

Taishan’s second unit is expected to go into full operation in the fourth quarter of 2019. Guo said construction was still ongoing and remained within the expected timeframe.

The EPR’s main foreign rival, the AP1000 designed by U.S.-based Westinghouse, has also made its global debut in China this year after a four-year construction delay.

The two models were originally expected to play a big role in China’s ambitious nuclear reactor building plans, but the hold-ups mean they must now compete with Russia’s VVER-1200 design, as well as China’s home-grown “Hualong One” brand.

Fabrice Fourcade, EDF’s chief representative in China, said the firm would be “very happy” to build more EPRs in China but this would depend on CGN and the Chinese government.

Though China aims to bring total installed nuclear power capacity to 58 gigawatts by the end of 2020 and have another 30 GW under construction, it has not given the go-ahead for any new conventional reactor projects in around three years.

Reporting by Tom Daly; Writing by David Stanway; Editing by Tom Hogue