On April 23rd, the Kickoff Workshop on the Research of Small Modular Reactor (SMR) and Decarbonization of China’s Power and Heating Sectors was held at Tsinghua University. Top experts in China’s nuclear and energy circle attended the meeting, including Wu Zongxin, former director of the Institute of Nuclear Energy and New Energy Technology (INET) of Tsinghua University, Shi Lishan, former deputy director general of the Nuclear Power Department of the National Energy Administration, Zhou Dadi, former director of the Energy Research Institute of the National Development and Reform Commission, Wang Zhixuan, deputy director of the Expert Committee of the China Electricity Council, Zhao Yong, director of the Energy Research Institute of Huaneng Group, Wang Haitao, deputy director of INET of Tsinghua University, Liu Baoting, general manager of CGN Clean Energy Technology Co., Ltd., and Zhang Xiliang, director of the Institute of Energy, Environment and Economy (3E) of Tsinghua University.

Professor Zhang Xiliang presided over the meeting and introduced background of the research project in his opening remarks. The SMR project is one of the sub projects of Tsinghua’s international cooperation project, China Carbon Neutrality Initiative (CCNI), undertaken by 3E, which consists of three components: retrofitting China’s coal-fired power plants to carbon free, facilitating carbon neutrality planning and capacity building of local governments, and international cooperation on carbon neutrality. The research will, standing at the height of national carbon neutrality goal, analyze the positioning and role of nuclear energy in future energy systems from the perspectives of safety, economy, and carbon reduction. 3E will closely cooperate with INET and the Department of Energy and Power Engineering of Tsinghua University, China Huaneng Group, China Guangdong Nuclear Group, etc. to implement the project.

Project lead, Zhou Sheng, an associate researcher of INET, introduced the research objectives, research contents, expected outputs, and implementation plan of the project. China is a coal-dominated country, and achieving carbon neutrality requires not only vigorously developing wind and solar power, but also addressing the issue of how to effectively decarbonize the vast amount of coal-fired boilers. To do this, there are mainly three pathways: first, early retirement; second, installing carbon capture and storage technology; and third, retrofitting with clean energy technologies such as nuclear energy and biomass energy. At present, using SMR to retrofit coal-fired boilers is still in the exploratory stage both at home and internationally. This research project will last for two years, focusing on three major tasks: (1) potential analysis of retrofitting China's power and heating sectors using SMR; (2) case study on high-temperature gas-cooled reactors and low-temperature heating reactors replacing coal-fired power generation/heating/CHP; and (3) development of carbon neutrality scenarios and implementation pathways for China's power and heating sectors.

Experts had in-depth discussions and exchanges on the challenges of SMR scaling up and scenarios evaluation for using SMR to replace coal-fired power generation/heating/CHP, the design of database parameters for coal-fired power generation/heating/CHP, the design of site matching evaluation indicator system for SMR replacing coal-fired power generation/heating/CHP, the selection of typical cases for SMR replacing coal-fired power generation/heating/CHP, and scenarios of large-scale nuclear energy development under the carbon neutrality goal of China's power and heating sectors. Specific suggestions were put forward on the key and difficult issues of the research topics. Professor Zhang Xiliang stated in his wrap-up that today's meeting has yielded fruitful results, and after the meeting, the project team will further digest expert opinions and integrate them into specific research work.