China is Building Two New Nuclear Reactors Shrouded in Secrecy, Concerning Experts

Two new nuclear reactors are being built on Changbiao Island off the coast of China, with the expected operations starting in 2023 and 2026, respectively. Some experts are concerned about the opening of these nuclear reactors because they are a specific type that produces more nuclear fuel than they use, Al Jazeera said. The two reactors are of China Fast Reactor 600 (CFR-600) type. Rapid reactions were popular across several countries in the 1960s and 70s, but most of them were scrapped. Russia currently has two commercial reactors and two experimental reactors in India and Japan.

China is Building Two New Nuclear Reactors Shrouded in Secrecy, Concerning Experts

 China’s first nuclear reactor, the China Experimental Fast Reactor completed a first trial operation cycle in December 2020. Most of the water in nuclear reactors is used to cool the reactions and to slow down the neutrons released by the reactions. Liquid sodium is used instead of quick reactions like use. There are challenges in this approach but the advantage is the dramatic increase in energy production efficiency. Light water reactors tend to extract less than 1 percent of the reactor’s uranium. Quick reactors have 100 times more efficiency by extracting almost all possible energy from uranium or thorium fuel.

The CFR-600 is a sodium-cooled fast-reactor whose main drawback is that sodium leaks are often common. In 2006, the United States, France and Japan signed an agreement to research and develop sodium-cooled rapid reactors, but no new plans have been drawn up. CFR-600 will produce plutonium. Plutonium can be used as fuel for other nuclear reactors, but it can also be used in nuclear warheads.

Experts at the Center for Non-Expansion Policy Education in Washington, D.C., are trying to address this potential concern. As of 2017, China participated in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) annual declaration of civilian plutonium volunteers. “Using these weapons, rich in plutonium and highly enriched uranium and tritium that China can easily access or build, Beijing could conservatively stockpile 1,270 warheads by 2030 (the United States currently deploys almost as many of its intercontinental ballistic missiles).” Policy Education Center States Report.