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BEIJING: China began commercial operations of the world’s first next-generation, gas-cooled nuclear reactor power plant, state media reported Wednesday.

The Shidao Bay plant in eastern Shandong province is powered by two high-temperature reactors cooled by gas rather than pressurised water, according to state news agency Xinhua, making it more efficient and cost-effective.

Conventional reactors produce electricity from nuclear energy. However, these advanced models – known as small modular reactors, or SMRs – can be used for other applications that include heating, desalination or steam for industrial needs.

UAE signs deal with Bill Gates’ nuclear company on advanced reactors: COP28

China is seeking to free itself from coal-fired power plants and reduce its dependence on foreign technologies against a backdrop of tensions with Western countries.

More than 90 percent of the Shidao Bay plant’s equipment is of Chinese design, project manager Zhang Yanxu told Xinhua.

Construction of the plant began in 2012 and the first SMR was connected to the power grid in 2021.

According to proponents, multi-use SMRs could play a central role in decarbonisation and energy transition thanks to their compact and simplified architecture, with their modular design reducing costs and construction time.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, more than 80 SMR projects are currently under development in 18 countries.

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