Reform of nuclear energy giant fuels innovation

BEIJING, April 3, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — A news report from China Daily:

Steam generated from a reactor in Dalian, Liaoning province, is used as a source of heat.

The latest reform of State-owned enterprises is fueling innovation in the country’s nuclear energy sector, with digital advancement set to further spur its development, according to a major industry player.

China Nuclear Power Engineering Co, a State-owned nuclear energy giant, is taking innovation as the focus of its reform, said Xu Pengfei, the group’s chairman and a national political adviser.

CNPE successfully launched the commercial operation of the country’s domestically produced, third-generation nuclear power technology in 2021, and is now pushing for digital transformation in the design and operation of its nuclear reactor and power plants, Xu added.

China’s SOEs were put under a three-year plan (2020-22) that aimed to transform them into competitive and modern enterprises. The plan advanced the development of CNPE’s third-generation Hualong One nuclear power reactor, and allowed it to gain full proprietary intellectual property rights.

Widely acknowledged as one of the leading third-generation nuclear power reactors in the global market, Hualong One is central to China’s goals of hitting carbon peak before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality before 2060.

The group’s digital transformation is progressing on two major tracks, digital maintenance and intelligent construction, Xu said.

“By implementing digitization measures — such as autonomous control, remote monitoring and remote maintenance — nuclear power plants can be safer, cheaper and more adaptable to different environments,” he said.

“We can also create a digital twin before building a nuclear facility, which can help avoid a lot of mistakes during the actual construction phase,” he explained.

According to the chairman, digitization will accelerate CNPE’s growth and hence, the group must remain focused on going digital. It is also working on other innovation projects to actively explore more civilian uses for nuclear energy.

“Our team is developing a gas-cooled micro reactor that can be fitted into a container on a truck,” Xu said. “If the project is successful, we’ll be able to provide hospitals or remote areas with power in the event of a natural disaster, moving our small nuclear power stations on site and using them as ‘portable batteries’.”

These innovations are powered by CNPE’s push for reform covering its human resources which, according to Xu, also presents a major challenge. “I believe the central question about innovation is to retain and train talent. We need to create a mechanism where talent can contribute to top performance in our company.”

CNPE has already formed a talent management task force to brainstorm on plans to rope in skilled manpower, while updating training and motivation strategies catering to each individual’s needs and strengths, he said.

Looking forward, Xu said he sees China’s nuclear energy sector pioneering development on the global stage. “With a solid foundation, a huge market and plenty of talent, I’m confident that China… will play an important role in global nuclear energy development.”