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USEC Inc. Message Board

  • splanton splanton Feb 25, 2013 7:27 AM Flag

    china's spin on centrifuges...?

    China National Nuclear Co. announced last week that it installed a domestically engineered centrifuge at a uranium enrichment plant in Lanzhou.

    Facilities at the site in Gansu Province have been enriching uranium since the mid-1960s, according to the World Nuclear Association. It has historically used Soviet and then Russian technology, which is also in use at a commercial enrichment plant in Shaanxi Province. The military once operated a domestically designed diffusion enrichment plant in Sichuan Province for military purposes using Chinese technology, but it likely shut down in 1989.

    The new CNNC plant is notable for its application of indigenous centrifuge technology for civilian nuclear fuel production. China has dozens of new reactors planned or under construction, but the country still relies heavily on imports for uranium and enrichment services.

    State-controlled news service Xinhua reported that CNNC invested $280 million in enrichment research and development in 2011.

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    • wnn TODAY:
      CNNC said that, "after a long period of painstaking research" at Lanzhou in central Gansu province, it has successfully developed uranium enrichment centrifuges for commercial use.

      The company said that the installation of the centrifuge marks a strategic accomplishment in terms of safeguarding the sustainable development of China's nuclear power industry. It noted that it "indicates that China has the independent chemical capacity to produce nuclear fuel and that it has fully grasped uranium enrichment centrifuge technology." The enrichment process increases the concentration of the fissionable uranium isotope (uranium-235) in order to produce nuclear reactor fuel.
      Current production

      In 2010, China needed 3600 tonnes of uranium and 2.5 million SWU of enrichment. By 2020, it expects to need 10,000 tonnes of uranium and 7 million SWU. The country has largely depended on Russian-supplied enrichment technology to meet its needs, with the remaining enriched uranium being imported.

      The Lanzhou enrichment plant started in 1964 for military use and operated commercially between 1980 and 1997 using Soviet-era diffusion technology. A Russian centrifuge plant of 500,000 SWU* per year started operation there in 2001.

      An enrichment plant using Russian centrifuges was also set up at Hanzhun in Shaanxi province under agreements between Russia and China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation (CNEIC). The first two modules at Hanzhun came into operation in 1997 and 2000, adding capacity for 500,000 SWU per year. Further capacity of 500,000 SWU per year at Hanzhun was commissioned in mid 2011.

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