Further developments in nuclear technology could be on the horizon in China following the recent launch of two new pebble-bed technology projects.

Of the two progressive projects, one is a prototype modulator plant, HTR-PM, intended to demonstrate the commercial potential of the HTR-10 pebble-bed technology. The other is a helium gas-turbine generator system, coupled with the original HTR-10 reactor.

China is also preparing to build a 190 mw demonstration reactor power plant at Rongcheng in Eastern China and, if successful, a total of 19 pebble-bed reactors generating 3600 mw will be constructed at that site.

The pebble-bed reactor (PBR) technology is an advanced and significantly safer form of nuclear power, achieving higher thermal efficiencies than traditional nuclear power plants and using inert or semi-inert gas such as helium, nitrogen or carbon dioxide as the coolant.

The technology was first developed in Germany but is currently under ongoing research and development in the US, China and South Africa.