It was stated in the New York time on 16 June 2021 that the engineers in China are building a radically different type of reactor that some experts say offers a safer nuclear alternative. The technology will be used in two reactors here on a peninsula jutting into the Yellow Sea, where the Chinese government is expected to let construction proceed even as the world debates the wisdom of nuclear power. But the western environmentalists are divided on the safety of pebble-bed nuclear technology.
Rather than using conventional fuel rod assemblies of the sort leaking radiation in Japan, each packed with nearly 400 pounds of uranium, the Chinese reactors will use hundreds of thousands of billiard-ball-size fuel elements, each cloaked in its own protective layer of graphite. The coating moderates the pace of nuclear reactions and is meant to ensure that if the plant had to be shut down in an emergency, the reaction would slowly stop on its own and not lead to a meltdown.
China is building a repository for high-level nuclear waste, like conventional fuel rods, in the country’s arid west. But the far less radioactive spheres, or pebbles, like those from the Shidao reactors will not require such specialized storage; China plans to store the used pebbles initially at the power plants, and later at lower-level radioactive waste disposal sites near the reactors.
Was mentioned that Germany led the initial research into pebble-bed nuclear reactors and built its own research version in the 1960’s. That reactor closed after an accident, caused by a jammed fuel pebble that released traces of radiation — coincidentally nine days after the Chernobyl accident in 1986, at a time of greatly increased worry about nuclear safety. Dr. Xu said that China, learning from the German mishap, had designed its reactors to keep the pebbles from jamming.
South Africa tried hard until last summer to build a pebble-bed reactor but ran into serious cost overruns.
Only five of the 60,000 fuel rods at a nuclear plant in southern China have been damaged, the country’s safety regulator said on 16 June 2021, insisting there was no danger to the public or environment.
David Fishman, manager at energy-focused consulting group The Lantau Group, said fuel failures, or cracks in fuel rods, were common throughout the industry. The noble gases were created when uranium fissions inside of the fuel cladding. Normally it would stay as a gas inside the fuel cladding, but if you have a crack in the fuel cladding, it leaks out and gets into the cooling loop.
“In terms of nuclear safety, we have the highest standard,” said Wang Yingsu, secretary general of the nuclear power branch of the China Electric Power Promotion Council.
China has blamed damaged fuel rods for rising levels of radiation in its first confirmation of the incident that prompted concern over the facility’s safety.