THE China made today Wednesday a show of (technological) power, putting into operation the world’s first fourth-generation nuclear power plant, in a major advance by the Asian giant in the race for the reactors of the future.

Located in Shandong, in the eastern part of the country, the Sidao Bei nuclear power plant is powered by two high-temperature reactors which are cooled by gas, rather than water under pressure, and are Beijing’s boast about the vast country’s path into the future.

“The commercial operation of the station of Sidao Bei officially began”the official New China News Agency reported today.

This is the world premiere of this type of reactor, according to the Chinese news agency.

Traditional reactors allow electricity to be produced from nuclear energy. But these advanced models (so-called small modular reactors or SMRs) can also be used for other applications, such as mainly heating, desalination of sea water or even steam for the needs of industry.

China, which is seeking to get rid of coal to power its power plants, is at the forefront of the race for new reactors. The country also seeks to reduce its dependence on foreign technologies, in the shadow of tensions with Western countries.

Over 90% of equipment of the Xidao Bei station is Chinese-made, one of the project’s officials, Zhang Yanshu, was quoted as saying with satisfaction by Xinhua.

Construction of the plant began in 2012. A first SMR was connected to the electricity grid in December 2021.

The production potential of Qingdao Bay amounts to 200 MW, according to Chinese media.

According to their proponents, SMR reactors may play a central role in carbonization and in the energy transition, thanks to their compact and simplified architecture, a modular design that reduces construction costs and duration, and their multiple use.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), over 80 projects are in development in 18 countries.

China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA)