China completes core module of world's first commercial onshore small modular reactor

The project is expected to be completed by 2026 and could help meet multiple energy demands.
Ameya Paleja
Stock image of a nuclear reactor
Stock image of a nuclear reactor


China has completed a significant step toward establishing the world's first commercial onshore small modular reactor. It has finished the installation of the core module of the reactor that it began building in 2021, the South China Morning Post reported.

With a power generation capacity of not more than 300 MW, small modular reactors (SMR) are believed to be the future of nuclear fission reactors. The advanced nuclear reactor design allows the power plant to be scaled down and established in remote locations that cannot be connected to the grid.

The technology is also considered a critical component of plans to move away from carbon-emitting fossil fuels. The promise of carbon-free power generation from nuclear plants has attracted the likes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to this industry, who are also building a plant in Wyoming by the end of the decade.

China takes the lead

Interesting Engineering has previously reported how China is leading the world in constructing nuclear power plants and currently has 24 units in the works. While these are large-scale projects, the country is also making headway in the modular nuclear reactor sector with its Linglong One SMR.

In 2016, Linglong One became the world's first SMR to pass the safety review from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which also stated that the reactor design could deal with extreme environmental conditions and multiple failures, the SCMP report said.

More than 70 SMR designs are being developed for commercial scale worldwide. However, Linglong One, whose construction began on the southern island of Hainan in 2021, is on its way to becoming the world's first onshore commercial SMR.

China completes core module of world's first commercial onshore small modular reactor
Stock image of a nuclear power plant

Linglong One

The nuclear reactor has achieved a significant milestone in its construction by completing its core module. Built by China First Heavy Industries, the core module is the most critical part of the reactor and has been built using technology developed in China.

Once completed, the reactor will produce one billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually to power 526,000 households. In addition to providing carbon-free energy, the reactor will provide additional benefits such as urban heating and cooling, steam production, and seawater desalination. This is expected to fresh water in areas where conventional reactors are not feasible.

The technology has potential offshore applications in disputed areas like the South China Sea. The country is also looking at deploying SMRs on small islands with relatively smaller populations of a few thousand people, where they will also be able to serve as a freshwater source.

The technology could also be exported to countries that are part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and China's neighbors in Asia, such as the Philippines and Indonesia, with multiple islands in their geography.

Russia has also built a floating nuclear power plant - the Akademik Lomonosov. The plant has been operational since May 2020.

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