Nuclear power in Menghe

The Gilsan Nuclear Power Plant in Hyangchun municipality, September 2019.
Map of all nuclear power plants in Menghe, with the status of each reactor.

Menghe is one of the largest producers of nuclear power in Septentrion. At the end of 2019, it had 43 operational nuclear reactors, with a total capacity of 39.43 GW in power. Over the course of 2019, Menghe's nuclear power plants generated 266.56 TWh of energy, for an overall capacity factor of 83.1%. While large in isolation, these figures amount to only 8.6% of Menghe's total electricity production in 2019, which surpassed 3,000 TWh.

An additional 33 reactors, under construction, will nearly double that figure by the end of 2025, and current plans call for 28 more commercial-grade reactors to begin construction in 2020 through 2023. Including the planned shutdown of the two Ro-5 reactors in 2026 and 2027, this would bring Menghe's total nuclear power generating capacity to 102.130 GW by the beginning of 2030. An even larger reactor-building program is slated to begin in 2029, when a commercial-grade generation IV reactor design is chosen for mass production.

Although Menghe was a late-comer to nuclear energy, opening its first commercial reactor in 1992, it has since developed into a powerhouse of nuclear research and development. As of May 2020, Menghe has two Generation IV reactors in operation, two more under construction, and ongoing design work on two additional reactor models, all slated to begin operation before 2027.

History

Turbine room of the Number 2 Reactor at the Byŏkdong Nuclear Power Plant.
The Onsŏng Nuclear Power Plant in Hwasŏng. Units 1 and 2 (left) contain Ro-900 reactors, and Units 3 and 4 (right) contain Ro-1000 reactors. Mixed plants of this type are common given the phase-in of reactor designs.
The Sơn Tây Nuclear Power Plant nearing completion in 2020.

In 1968, four years after the end of the Menghean War of Liberation, the government of the Democratic People's Republic of Menghe established the state-owned Menghean Nuclear Power Corporation (MNPC), which was tasked with surveying the country's territory for possible uranium deposits, constructing uranium enrichment facilities, and developing a domestic nuclear reactor.

General-Secretary Sim Jin-hwan was a major supporter of nuclear power for peaceful purposes, and under his leadership the MNPC increased its research and development efforts. The country secured permission to import a 4-Megawatt research reactor from Letnia in 1972, and brought it online in 1976. In 1978, the country began work on a domestic research reactor, which came online in 1983. Neither of these reactors were hooked up to the national power grid; their main purpose was to build domestic experience with reactor design, and to produce radioactive isotopes for Menghe's nuclear weapons program.

In 1982, agents of the Menghean government covertly opened back-channel negotiations with Ostland, whose military was rumored to be seeking data on nuclear weapons development to oppose the threat from Sebrenskiya. The two sides reached a secret agreement under which Menghe would share a steady stream of data from its nuclear weapons program, which was still a tightly kept secret at the time. In return, Ostland would export two nuclear reactors to Menghe, and share information relating to civilian nuclear power plant design. Construction of the first reactor, a 600-MWe Generation II PWR at Byŏkdong County in Anchŏn, began in 1983, and its twin began construction the following year. Following the November 4, 1984 nuclear test at Naran Gaja, the international community placed Menghe under an embargo for its violation of the STAPNA agreement, stalling construction work at both reactors. Even after Ostish engineers had left Menghe, however, the two countries continued to secretly trade test data for civilian nuclear blueprints in 1985 through 1987, allowing work on the Byŏkdong facility to continue at a reduced pace.

Following the Decembrist Revolution, Choe Sŭng-min's government ordered engineering teams to resume work on the Anchŏn plant, which was linked to the civilian power grid in 1992. Construction also began on civilian nuclear plants near Sunju and Yŏng'an, as part of a twenty-year plan to bring one civilian reactor online each year. This program focused on placing new nuclear power facilities on the Chŏllo plain and Meng river basin, which were far from coal-producing areas but were experiencing rapid economic growth.

Accelerated construction schedules and the rapid transition from experimental reactors to civilian power stations led to serious safety issues in Menghe's first set of Generation II reactors. Following the Chimgu nuclear accident in 2003, the General-Directorate for Energy shut down all operational reactors and instituted a temporary freeze on all new construction so that inspectors could review the causes of the Chimgu accident and draw up a list of safety corrections.

Construction resumed in 2006, after the report was finished, and retrofits of existing reactors began in the same year. During the temporary shutdown, coal power had filled the vacuum created by Menghe's ballooning energy needs, contributing to serious air pollution issues in major cities. Despite higher public opposition to nuclear power, the Menghean Socialist Party doubled down on its commitment to expanding the nuclear sector, aiming for 30% of the country's electricity to come from nuclear plants by 2030. By the late 2010s, the country was beginning construction on five new reactors every year, with a planned rate of ten reactors per year in the 2020s.

During the initial building spree, security against attack was a major concern in reactor design. Nuclear power was in the highest demand along the southern coast, where local geographic conditions were not amenable to the construction of coal or hydroelectric plants for high-volume output, but this area was also very close to Altagracia and the Entente forces stationed there. A major diplomatic breakthrough came in March 2019, when representatives of Menghe's main nuclear and military powers gathered to sign the Sunju Protocol on International Conflict and Atomic Energy. After the agreement was finalized, the National Nuclear Safety Administration announced that new reactors built in the southern region would be held to the same structural standards used in the rest of the country, reducing construction costs and opening the way to a flood of new construction around Sunju and Insŏng.

Over the course of the 2010s, Menghe also emerged as a leading player in the effort to design new Generation IV reactors based on safer and more efficient technologies. An RSR-250 two-unit pebble bed reactor at the Hamhae Nuclear Plant is scheduled to come online in mid-2020, and a pair of NR-600 sodium-cooled fast reactors at Hyesan are halfway complete and should be finished by 2024. A four-module stable salt reactor in Sunju municipality, part of a joint project with Kerenevoi, is still in development but projected to begin construction in 2023 and begin operation in 2026. Several other designs are still at the conceptual stage.

Corporate structure

Following a 1998 reform of Menghe's electricity sector, electricity distribution is controlled by the Menghean National Grid Corporation, while electricity production is controlled by a collection of separate independent power producers. During the transition process, all of Menghe's nuclear facilities were handed over to the newly-created State Nuclear Energy Corporation (SNEC). This was a state-owned enterprise with a legally protected monopoly on nuclear power production. In the wake of the Chimgu nuclear accident, Menghean regulators concluded that the SNEC monopoly created too many opportunities for collusion with regulators, and split SNEC's holdings to form the Chŏllo Nuclear Energy Corporation (CNEC) and National Nuclear Power Group (NNPG).

Both CNEC and NNPG are state-owned corporations with public utility mandates, meaning that the promotion of managerial staff is based on meeting productivity and safety targets set by the government, not on profit margins or shareholder value. CNEC and NNPG also collaborated during their early history. The Ro-900 and Ro-1000 reactors were both CNEC designs, but CNEC shared the patents with NNPG free of charge; the Ro-1200 reactor was a joint design between the two. Since 2015, however, the state-organized push to develop new Generation IV reactors has encouraged competition between the two giants, with each developing their own independent designs. In parallel, through the opening of new power plant locations, the two state-owned giants have spread beyond their original geographically separate regions, creating more competition around the country.

The 2010s also saw the emergence of a number of independent nuclear power ventures, mostly in the research and development realm. The Sunju Nuclear Research Institute, an offshoot of the prestigious Sunju Technical University, began independent research on a salt-cooled reactor with containment tubes in 2013, and in 2018 it formed a joint venture with the Kerenenovian Sůl-VKP engineering GmbH. The Thorium Molten-Salt Reactor Initiative (TMSRI), a collaborative effort between several of Menghe's top universities, is also working on a commercial-sized reactor design, though it is unlikely to be operational before 2027.

Regulatory structure

Originally, nuclear power plants in Menghe were regulated by the National Office for Nuclear Safety, an organ of the Directorate for Nuclear Power within the General Directorate for Energy in the Ministry of Economic Development. In the aftermath of the Chimgu nuclear accident, the General-Directorate for Discipline Inspection within the Ministry of Internal Security conducted an investigation of the NONS and found evidence that its inspectors had accepted bribes from SNEC to speed up approvals and loosen regulatory standards. Based on the evidence, the national leadership concluded that these problems stemmed from the close relationship between the NONS and the Ministry of Economic Development, which pressured its employees to treat pro-growth policies as their main priority.

In 2003, while the investigation of the Chimgu accident was still underway, the National Assembly passed a law establishing an independent oversight body, the Menghean Nuclear Regulatory Agency. The MNRA is not part of a higher ministry-level body, but instead reports directly to the Supreme Council. It is also part of the Septentrion Nuclear Regulators' Association.

From the first year of its creation, the MNRA ordered an expanded investigation of the events that led to the failure of the Chimgu reactor, in order to compile a complete and honest list of the design flaws involved. During this time, construction on new reactors was frozen, and all existing nuclear plants suspended regular operations in order to submit to inspections. Some scholars consider this a turning point in Menghean nuclear safety, as the MNRA made a serious commitment to putting safety ahead of cost and showed a high willingness to uncover evidence of corner-cutting. The nuclear IPPs largely fell in line, renovating their plants and retraining their personnel in order to fall in line with state regulations. More recently, as construction of new reactors has again reached dizzying rates, some international observers have expressed concern that the MNRA may be putting schedules ahead of safety.

Reactor models

Menghe operates a large number of different reactor models, the result of its reliance on international assistance and its turbulent development program. Additionally, because of the multi-stage construction and contracting process, many individual nuclear power plants contain a combination of different reactor types, usually with pairs of matching reactors introduced two by two across different time periods.

Domestically built Menghean reactors are designated "Ro" (로 / 爐), short for "nuclear reactor" (Menghean: 원자로 / 原子爐, wŏnjaro. Where "Ro" is used alone, the reactor is a pressurized water reactor, with the exception of Ro-1 and Ro-2, which were experimental gas-cooled units. Later types add modifiers to the designation: NR-600, for example, is a sodium-cooled fast reactor (나트륨냉각고속원자로 / 나트륨冷却高速原子爐, Natryŭm Naenggak Gosok Wŏnjaro).

Ro-5

The Ro-5 was Menghe's first civilian nuclear reactor. It was a licensed version of an Ostish Gen-II PWR design, built using a combination of domestically manufactured and imported components. Two were built, both at the Byŏkdong Nuclear Power Plant in Anchŏn municipality, in the late 1980s. At full capacity, each reactor generated a net output of 640 MWe of electricity. Construction stalled during the economic crisis of the late 1980s, but resumed in the 1990s.

Ro-5G

The Ro-5G, with G denoting "improved" (개선 / 改善, Gaesŏn), is a Menghean domestic improvement of the Ro-5 reactor, designed during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Its development benefited heavily from blueprints and technical information illicitly transferred from Ostland during the late 1980s, but as Ostland's government publicly denies any involvement, Menghe claims the reactor as a domestic design. The first reactor began construction in 1994, and it started operation in 1999, before the first 900 MWe design.

Like the Ro-5, the Ro-5G is a Gen-II pressurized water reactor with three coolant loops: a primary loop running through the reactor core, a secondary loop linking the primary heat exchange to the turbine, and a tertiary loop using water outside the plant to cool the secondary loop. The original 1970s-vintage control room equipment was retained, and many of the supporting systems were simplified in a bid to reduce costs. Net power output was also increased to 660 MWe. Eight reactors of this type were ordered, but due to safety concerns following the Chimgu nuclear accident, one was cancelled before construction, one was cancelled mid-construction, and one was rendered inoperable by a partial meltdown. The two existing reactors also underwent major safety refits, and the three under construction were modified to meet higher standards. As of 2019, the five surviving reactors remain in operation, and plans to deactivate them have been postponed in order to help meet air quality targets.

CP1

In tandem with the development of the Ro-5G reactor, Menghe ordered four 900 MWe reactors from Sieuxerr as an alternative measure in case work on the Ro-5G did not go as planned. The CP1 model selected for construction included some improved safety features, such as an emergency pump system to spray tertiary-loop water into the containment building, and matched two reactors to a single control room. Net electricity output was 944 MWe per reactor.

All four CP1 reactors were built at the Wando-Changjang facility, which serves the southern city of Sunju. They began construction in 1992, 1995, 1997, and 1999, but the first unit did not link up to the power grid until 1999, after the first Ro-5G reactor was online. Two more reactors of the type were still on order in 2003, but Menghe froze the contract in 2003 to conduct a comprehensive nuclear safety review. The contract was cancelled permanently in 2005 due to the deterioration of Menghe-Sieuxerr relations. Cancellation of the contract also interfered in the supply of Sieuxerrian-made parts to the second two reactors, which resumed construction in 2006, forcing Menghe to substitute foreign-made and reverse-engineered components. As such, despite their official CP1 designation, Reactors 3 and 4 at Changjang were completed to a slightly different standard, and differ in their output levels. Reverse-engineering work on these reactors served as a bridge to the development of the Ro-900 reactor, which began construction in 2009.

ABWR

After the lifting of the moratorium on new reactor construction in 2006, Menghe could no longer rely on components supplied from Sieuxerr. Nor could it rely on future construction of the Ro-5G reactor, which the Menghean Nuclear Regulatory Agency had ruled as unsafe for future construction. This created a problem at CNEC's Yungju-Daegwan plant, where one Ro-5G resumed construction but the remaining three were cancelled.

The Chŏllo Nuclear Energy Corporation responded by turning to Dayashina, ordering two 1300-MWe ABWR reactors for a new power plant in Daegwan county. Construction began later that year, based on negotiations made the previous year. Though the ABWR came with a much higher price tag than the CP1, it also generated more electricity at peak capacity. More importantly, it came with a wide array of new safety features, including passive safety features designed to shut the reactor down automatically and greatly improved coolant pumps within the reactor pressure vessel. Menghe ordered two more ABWR reactors in 2008, bringing the total at the Daegwan plant to four.

Though it carried the highest hopes, the ABWR design proved to be something of a disappointment. Construction work ran into delays and cost overruns, particularly on the first reactor. Once operational, the ABWR reactors also suffered from poor reliability levels, as they often had to be taken off the grid for maintenance. From activation until 2018, the four ABWR reactors at Daegwan were off the grid 32% of the time, compared to 9% at the four CP1 reactors. As a result, subsequent Menghean Gen III reactor design opted for more reliable approaches.

HAL

To keep pace with CNEC's Dayashinese reactors, the National Nuclear Power Group ordered four more nuclear reactors from Hallia. Like the ABWR units, these were ordered in two groups of two, with construction beginning in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. These were all Generation II+ reactors with a PWR design, though they incorporated more safety features than the Ro-5 and 5G, and had a higher power output. Two were built at the Chanam Onsŏng plant alongside its existing Ro-5G reactors, and two were built at the new Yŏnsa facility in Hwasŏng directly-controlled city.

V-412

The V-412 was Menghe's third foreign-designed reactor built during the late 2000s. It was an imported Sebrenskiyan design, based on the VVER-1000 water-water energetic reactor family developed in Letnia. Two reactors of this type were ordered, and ironically, both were built by NNPG at the Byŏkdong power station, alongside the Ro-5 reactors purchased from Ostland in return for covert support for its standoff against Sebrenskiya.

HUNTR

The HUNTR (Heavy-water Uranium Nuclear Transition Reactor) is a Themiclesian reactor design designed to use unenriched uranium and reprocessed nuclear waste. As its name suggests, it relies on heavy water as its reactor coolant and primary loop coolant, increasing its neutron economy to the point that it can run on fuels with a lower content of fissionable atoms. In place of a reactor pressure vessel, the reactor is contained inside a large, non-pressurized chamber known as a calandria, and fuel bundles are inserted through the sides of the chamber on a continuous basis, allowing for on-grid refueling.

CNEC initially purchased two HUNTR 6 reactors, each with a net electric output of 650 MWe, for construction at the new Anpo Puryŏng Nuclear Power Plant in 2008 and 2009. Initial plans called for a total of four to six HUNTR-6 reactors at the Puryŏng site, which would be devoted to recycling reprocessed nuclear fuel. Early operation of the plant, however, revealed considerable cost-efficiency problems: the facility itself went well over budget during construction, and operating costs also proved to be higher than expected. In 2016, CNEC scrapped plans for future HUNTR reactors and instead ordered two Ro-1200 PWRs in its expansion of the Puryŏng site.

Ro-900

The Ro-900 is an indigenous Menghean 900-MWe capacity reactor, developed over the course of the 2000s and first built in 2009. It uses a three-loop PWR design, but with active and passive safety features incorporated from the HAL and V-412. The Chŏllo Nuclear Energy Corporation, which developed the design, claims that the reactor is indigenous, but foreign intelligence reports suggest that the Ro-900 was reverse-engineered from the Sieuxerrian SL1 reactors CNEC operates at Changjang. The Ro-900 is officially classified as a Generation II+ reactor, with some improved safety features but not enough to qualify as a Generation III design.

Ro-1000

The Ro-1000 is an improved variant of the Ro-900, uprated to generate 1000 MWe of electricity in net output. It incorporates a number of design revisions in order to moderately reduce costs and construction times without compromising on safety. While some 30% of components in the Ro-900 were of disputed legal status, and possibly reverse-engineered from Sieuxerr without licensed permission, CNEC claims that the disputed parts in question were replaced with indigenous designs in the Ro-1000.

The first reactor of Ro-1000 type began construction at the Hyangchun-Gilsan plant in 2012, before the first Ro-900 reactor was complete, and linked up to the commercial power grid in 2018. From 2012 until early 2015, the Ro-1000 accounted for most Menghean reactor construction, but it has now been superseded by the Ro-1200, which uses a safer Generation III design and produces a higher level of output.

Ro-1200

Schematic drawing of the Ro-1200 reactor. Red: active cooling systems. Green: passive cooling systems. IRWST: in-containment refueling water storage tank.

Developed from experience with the Ro-900 and HAL, the Ro-1200 is Menghe's first domestically developed Generation III reactor. The product of a joint venture between CNEC and NNPG, its blueprints are freely shared between the two corporations. At a fundamental level, the Ro-1200 is a pressurized water reactor with three coolant loops, based on the same principle as the CP1 and Ro-5. Its Generation III status is a result of many incremental improvements in safety, efficiency, and redundancy, rather than any revolutionary changes in fuel cycle or operating principle. Consequently, the Ro-1200 is relatively cheap to construct and operate, and familiar to nuclear reactor operators trained on other reactor types, as it relies on proven technologies rather than new concepts.

The Menghean Nuclear Energy Corporation claims that the Ro-1200 uses 20% less uranium fuel per MWe of output than a CP1 reactor, and consequently produces 20% less waste. It has a 60-year design life, extendable to over 100 years with a partial overhaul, compared to 40 years extendable to 60 among Generation II reactors. The Ro-1200 has a thermal efficiency coefficient of 0.38, converting roughly 3,200 MWth of heat energy into roughly 1,200 MWe of electrical energy.

It is projected that Ro-1200 reactors will experience only 50 core damage events per 100 million reactor-years (a core damage frequency of 5.0 × 10-7), or one every 2 million reactor-years. This is 100 times less frequent than the figure for the average Casaterran reactor of the 1970s and 1980s (5.0 × 10-5). In the unlikely event that a reactor does experience a meltdown, a concrete channel under the reactor is designed to catch the corium and divert it to an underground containment chamber, where it spreads out into a sub-critical geometry with radiation shielding above and a thick concrete pad below.

Since 2015, the Ro-1200 has accounted for the vast majority of Menghean nuclear reactor construction, with an average of six reactors beginning construction every year. At this level of output, the design has achieved economies of scale in parts construction and retention of skilled labor, keeping projected construction times under 6 years. The first Ro-1200 reactor, at the Chŏnggi Nuclear Power Plant, is progressing slightly ahead of schedule and should be ready to connect to the power grid in early 2021.

Ongoing research projects

Over the course of the 2010s, Menghe has emerged as a leading player in the development of Generation IV reactors. Both state and private companies are competing to bring prototype reactors into the commercial grid demonstration stage, in preparation for a larger rollout in the future.

In order to expedite research work, in 2017 the Ministry of Economic Development formally announced the beginning of a ten-year competition period to develop new reactor designs ready for commercial operation. This would leave at least two years of assessment, testing, and review ahead of the Ninth New Five-Year Plan in 2029, which could involve a massive initiative to build new Generation IV reactors. The RSR-125, NR-600, and SSR have all emerged as contenders in this peaceful development race, which would bring a lucrative reward to the winner.

RSR-125

3D model of the RSR-125 pebble bed reactor unit (left) and the turbine generator unit (right).
Simplified diagram of the procedure for circulating fuel pebbles (red) and control pebbles (black) in the reactor.

The RSR in this reactor type indicates Ransŏksang Wŏnjaro (란석상 원자로 / 卵石床原子爐), or pebble bed reactor. It is a high-temperature gas-cooled design, with a cylindrical reactor chamber hooked up to a turbine circulating helium gas. In place of fuel rods, the reactor chamber is filled with fuel spheres, or "pebbles," 60 millimeters in diameter. Each sphere is covered by a 5mm graphite coating, and contains a large number of spherical fuel particles, each 0.92mm in diameter. These particles contain an 0.5mm diameter uranium dioxide center surrounded by layers of protective buffer material, including silicon carbide, to prevent damage and moisture intrusion. In the course of regular operation, the pebbles drop out through a channel in the base of the reactor, where a special sensor measures their level of depletion and either returns them to the top of the pebble bed or sends them to spent fuel storage. This inspection process also allows broken or defective pebbles to be removed.

The pebble bed design has a number of important safety features. Because it naturally operates at 600°C, and with a strong negative reactivity feedback mechanism via Doppler broadening, even in the event of a catastrophic total failure of all mechanical and coolant equipment, the reactor would rise to a 900° "idle" temperature and stabilize there. Additionally, the coolant is inert helium rather than water, and it poses no risk of boiling into steam or reacting with fuel cladding. A final backup option allows the operators to manually release all fuel spheres from the reactor base into an underground holding chamber where they spread out to sub-critical geometry.

From the standpoint of efficiency, the constant circulation and inspection of fuel pebbles means that the reactor can constantly trade out spent and fresh fuel elements. A conventional pressurized water reactor must power down completely before the fuel rods can be replaced, taking it off the grid for an extended period of time. Because each fuel particle is coated in a large amount of protective material, the physical volume of nuclear waste is also greater, though it contains the same amount of uranium. To counterbalance this problem, Menghean researchers are working on pebble bed reactors which can burn other fuels, including reprocessed uranium and thorium, but the production-model RSR-125 only uses enriched uranium dioxide.

The Chŏllo Nuclear Power Corporation began construction of two RSR-125 reactors in 2013, in a new facility at the Hamhae Nuclear Plant near Chanam. In contrast to previous Menghean nuclear power plants, where each reactor is connected to one or more generator turbines, at the Hamhae facility both RSR-125s are hooked up to a single turbine which will generate 250 MWe of electricity. Up to a dozen more RSR-125 units could be installed at Hamhae, and more plants are tentatively planned; there is also ongoing design work on a larger multi-reactor complex, in which six pebble bed reactors are hooked up to a single 600 MWe turbine. New construction work has been postponed until after the two units at Hamhae have reached criticality, connected to the power grid, and undergone initial tests.

NR-600

Schematic of a pool-type sodium-cooled fast reactor, like the NR-600.

The NR-600 is the National Nuclear Power Group's flagship commercial-sized Generation IV reactor. Two units are currently under construction at a new nuclear plant in Hyesan county. It is a pool-type sodium-cooled fast reactor, using liquid sodium as coolant and in the primary loop, with steam in the secondary and tertiary loops. Construction on the two reactor units began in 2017 and 2018, and it is expected that both will be operational in 2024.

The use of sodium as coolant offers a number of safety and efficiency advantages over a conventional pressurized water reactor. Sodium is a weak neutron moderator, allowing the NR-600 to work as a fast-neutron reactor while maintaining adequate cooling. Sodium also has a 785°C margin between its melting and boiling points, with the upper margin well above the operating temperature of the reactor, meaning that even a large surge in reactor temperature will not boil away the coolant and initiate a meltdown. This characteristic of sodium also means that the coolant does not have to be pressurized, and at higher heat levels, it exhibits greater thermodynamic efficiency in converting reaction energy to electricity.

Most safety concerns surrounding the NR-600 design focus on sodium's high reactivity, especially its reactivity with water. A water leak into a sodium channel, or a sodium leak into a wet environment, could generate a violent reaction producing heat, pressure, and combustible hydrogen gas, which was a major contributing factor to the Chimgu nuclear accident. Should a fire break out, it cannot be extinguished with water, which would intensify the reaction. The Hyesan nuclear facility is being built on a hilltop facing the sheltered Kimhae sea to reduce the flood and tsunami risk, but the current reactor design relies on water for the tertiary heat sink, and therefore it cannot be built too far inland.

SSR

A 3D model of an SSR reactor core, showing the passive cooling, fuel assembly, and fuel replacement airlock.

In 2018, the Sunju Nuclear Research Institute signed an agreement with Kerenovian company Sůl-VKP engineering GmbH to construct a prototype commercial facility in Sunju municipality. This facility will use Sůl-VKP's patented stable salt reactor concept, which combines a PWR-style rod-type fuel arrangement with molten salt cooling. Enclosed fuel assemblies, each containing tubes filled with a mixture of molten salt and reprocessed plutonium fuel, are suspended in a pool of molten salts, which acts as a primary coolant. In contrast to other molten salt reactor designs, the fuel-containing rods are fully separate from the primary coolant, and fuel does not circulate around the reactor.

Like other Generation IV reactors, the SSR design has a number of passive safety features which make a catastrophic failure less likely. Like the domestic NR-600 design, the salt coolant operates at roughly 1 atmosphere of pressure and well below its boiling point, meaning that there is no risk of a boil-off or explosion. The salt-based coolant has a highly negative temperature coefficient, meaning that as the reactor heats up, the coolant slows it down more effectively, bringing it to a halt well before it reaches the salt's boiling point. Heat circulates naturally through the primary tank via convection, without the need for active pumps, and cools in heat exchanges which feed steam to a turbine in a separate building. If the secondary coolant loop experiences a total failure, convection-based air channels running underneath the stainless steel salt tank offer an entirely passive backup cooling mechanism. As a final active option, the operators can lower boron control plates in between groups of fuel assemblies, slowing down the reaction manually.

The SSR design is also potentially cheaper and more efficient than other Gen III and Gen IV alternatives. As with the NR-600 and RSR-125, fuel assemblies can be removed, inspected, and replaced while the reactor is still in operation, without taking it off the grid for an extended period. Because it operates in a stationary pool at atmospheric pressure, there is no need for supporting machinery designed to withstand intense temperatures and pressures, and it is possible to build the reactor without an expensive containment chamber overhead. One of the most attractive features, reportedly decisive in Menghe's decision to fund a test site, is the fact that all reactor and plant components can be mass-produced at a separate facility and shipped by truck to the construction site, dramatically reducing costs if reactors are produced en masse.

The commercial SSR facility planned for Sunju will have four reactor modules, each with a thermal output of 375 MW, in one coolant tank, for a total net electricity output of 400 MWe. Initial blueprints called for a concrete blast shelter over the reactor containment room, but this requirement was waived following the signing of the Sunju Protocol. Under the 2018 agreement, the joint enterprise would have two years to solve the remaining corrosion resistance challenges, three years to design the power plant facility, and three years to build the reactor, with the goal of bringing the reactor online before the end of 2026. This will allow for some time to run the reactor and gain working experience before the beginning of Menghe's Ninth New Five-Year Plan in 2029, which could include a lucrative Generation IV reactor construction initiative. Some Kerenovian engineers have expressed concerns that their Menghean counterparts are rushing the project to meet competition deadlines, particularly in regard to the expedited safety review process.

Waste disposal

Spent fuel cooling pool at the Number 3 reactor of the Changjang Nuclear Power Plant. The blue glow is Cherenkov radiation.

As is typical in the nuclear industry, spent fuel rods from Menghean pressurized water reactors are first placed in enclosed water storage pools at the nuclear plant itself and kept there for a period of 10 to 20 years. This submerged storage period cools the waste down to ambient temperatures and also allows time for the shortest-lived (and most dangerous) isotopes to decay. Because radioactive decay produces intense heat for the first 4-6 years after removal from the reactor, a heat exchanger cools the water. Continuous circulation and filtering of the air and water in these rooms ensures that there is neither fuel cladding corrosion nor a buildup of dangerous gases.

After fuel rods have cooled thoroughly in spent fuel pools, they are moved to dry cask storage. The standard model of nuclear waste cask used in Menghe follows blueprints laid out by the MNRA, and consists of a tall welded steel cylinder with concrete radiation shielding around its sides. These dry casks are stored in warehouses within the nuclear power facility, and are built to maintain their integrity for 100 years under ideal conditions or 30 years in a humid environment. They are intended as temporary storage only.

As of 2020, Menghe does not have any permanent facilities for the storage of high-level waste. Until now, this has been an acceptable problem, as Meghe's oldest commercial reactors began operation in 1992 and the vast majority began operation after 2010. Waste from these reactors is still held in the water storage pool stage. As more and more reactors come online, however, accumulation of waste has the potential to become a serious problem. The Menghean Nuclear Regulatory Association has conducted an independent review of potential long-term storage sites, all in the Chŏnsan mountains or the semi-arid northwest. There are also ongoing discussions with Polvokia on the possibility of a jointly run site in the Baeksan mountains. On top of local geological conditions, such as the danger of tectonic activity, the depth of the shaft, and the permeability of the surrounding rock to groundwater, the placement of a nuclear waste facility also faces opposition from local activists, and locations in Menghe's densely populated coastal and core regions have been ruled out.

Until such a site is available, the Menghean government has invested a great deal of effort in developing a viable system for reprocessing waste in order to reclaim usable fuel in new types of reactor. Initially, the Themiclesian HUNTR reactors were seen as the solution to this problem, but in response to cost overruns in their construction and maintenance, the Menghean government has instead sought to solve the problem by promoting research into Generation IV reactors. The NR-600 sodium-cooled fast reactor can be modified to burn waste fuel with a low content of uranium-235, and the Stable Salt Reactor is designed to burn reprocessed waste fuel once brought online. CNEC's RSR-125 commercial demonstrator is designed to use enriched uranium, but future pebble bed designs could also be used to burn reprocessed fuel. Though a closed fuel cycle would not fully eliminate nuclear waste, it would extract energy from existing waste without the need for a full enrichment and mining process. Depending on the fuel cycle used, the reuse of spent fuel could also burn off many of the longest-lived isotopes, producing waste which is hazardous for several hundred years rather than several hundred thousand.

Uranium fuel cycle

Mining

Menghean yellowcake sourcing (2019)

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In 2019, Menghe's civilian nuclear sector required new low-enriched fuel assemblies totaling 1,346 tU, equivalent to roughly 13,000 tonnes of natural uranium. This is split between 898 tonnes for refueling operational reactors, and 448 tonnes for building new reactors. At current planned construction levels, Menghe's total annual uranium consumption is projected to reach 3,200 tU of fuel, or roughly 32,000 tonnes of natural uranium. This is slightly less than half of Septentrion's total annual uranium mining output in the present day. Military reactors and pebble-bed fuel are not included in these totals.

Menghe currently has four operational uranium mines on its own territory, all run by the state-owned Menghean Uranium Mining Corporation (MUMC). Current domestic production amounts to under 1,000 tonnes per year, and much of this comes from deposits with low-grade ore. There are plans to expand Menghe's four operating uranium mines to a total of 1,400 tU per year, and ongoing exploration efforts at a site in the southern Dzhungar SAP may bring in an additional 400 tU per year, but this higher output level would still amount to less than 7% of domestic civilian uranium needs. All domestic uranium ore is processed into yellowcake at the mine site, through aboveground or in-situ heap leaching, before being shipped to other sites for enrichment.

In addition to the four operational facilities, MUMC is exploring a fifth large deposit at Gurvansaikhan, which could potentially yield 200 tU per year. Researchers with MUMC are also working on a process for removing useful quantities of uranium dust from coal, in cases where coal and trace uranium are present in the same sandstone vein. Environmental critics allege that this research encourages further coal mining, but in its absence, coal containing trace uranium is burned and the impurities released into the atmosphere.

Mine name Province Mine type Nominal capacity, 2019 Nominal capacity, planned
Teshig Dzungar SAP In-Situ leach 450 tU/year 700 tU/year
Chosan North Donghae Underground; heap leach 100 tU/year 100 tU/year
Honggok Sanhu Underground; heap leach 200 tU/year 200 tU/year
Chuluunkhoroot Ketchvan SAP Underground; heap leach 200 tU/year 400 tU/year
Gurvansaikhan Dzungar SAP Underground; heap leach 0 tU/year 200 tU/year
Totals --- --- 950 tU/year 1,600 tU/year

To supplement domestic production, Menghe has increasingly turned to importation from abroad. Roughly 60% of Menghe's imported uranium comes from mines fully or partially controlled by the state-owned Menghean Overseas Uranium Supply Corporation, or MOUSUC. The remaining 40% is purchased on the international market. Of the portion imported through MOUSUC, most comes from Dzhungestan and Polvokia, which border Menghe directly and are close economic partners. Menghe also signed an agreement with Eukras in 2018 to form a joint venture in which MOUSUC would own a 51% stake. In response to concerns over geopolitical tension and the risk of war, Menghe has also attempted to expand the share of imported uranium coming through MOUSUC, and expand the share which is shipped overland from other countries in Hemithea.

Enrichment

While most of its yellowcake uranium is imported from abroad, Menghe has rapidly increased its capacity for uranium enrichment. In 2017, for the first time, the country enriched enough uranium to meet all of its civilian needs, and was able to stockpile some low-enriched uranium for future shortfalls. Over the next ten years, Menghe plans to continue large-scale construction of new gas centrifuge facilities, in order to remain self-reliant and turn Menghe into a mid-stream uranium processing hub for countries which built Menghean reactors.

Notably, the list of facilities below only includes those which are used for civilian purposes. Andong-ri No.1, for instance, produces medium-to-high-enrichment fuel for shipborne reactors, and is dug into a mountainside to protect against reconnaissance and bombing; Andong-ri No.2 is the aboveground overflow portion of the facility, built in the 1990s to handle civilian fuel. Under the terms of the Sunju protocol, military and civilian uranium enrichment supply lines must be fully separated by 2023 in order for the latter to qualify for immunity against wartime attack.

Menghean uranium enrichment facilities (civilian only)
Facility Name 2019 capacity planned 2030 capacity
Andong-ri No.2 1,800,000 SWU 2,600,000 SWU
Donggang 1,600,000 SWU 6,400,000 SWU
Myŏnggan (n/a) 6,400,000 SWU
Saekgu 3,400,000 SWU 3,400,000 SWU
Gilgye 750,000 SWU 750,000 SWU
Total 7,550,000 SWU 19,550,000 SWU

Fuel manufacturing

Fuel manufacturing, like fuel enrichment, now takes place entirely within Menghe, and current construction plans aim to keep Menghe self-sufficient in fuel assembly production as reactor construction continues. Both CNEC and NNPG operate their own fuel rod fabrication sites, though if there is an excess of capacity they will trade with one another.

Nyŏngjŏn, now run by NNPG, is the oldest of these sites, built under the Democratic People's Republic of Menghe to supply fuel pellets to the country's Ro-5 reactors. The next was Ankang, followed by Simwŏl, run by CNEC. In addition to expansions of the Nyŏngjŏn and Ankang sites, two large combined fabrication facilities are under phase-by-phase construction: one at Donggang, and one at Myŏnggan. Both are combined enrichment and fabrication industrial parks with on-site centrifuges, and both are adjacent to existing nuclear power plants. They are also situated on the coast, and can directly accept bulk import shipments of uranium yellowcake without the need for long overland travel.

Menghean fuel fabrication facilities (civilian only)
Facility Name 2019 capacity planned 2030 capacity
Nyŏngjŏn 200 tU 300 tU
Donggang 400 tU 1,000 tU
Myŏnggan (n/a) 1,000 tU
Simwŏl 500 tU 500 tU
Ankang 200 tU 400 tU
Total 1,300 tU 3,200 tU

Reprocessing

Map of the various major civilian facilties which make up Menghe's uranium fuel cycle, as listed in the tables above.

Menghe's ongoing construction boom in Generation III reactors has stirred extensive research on strategies for nuclear reprocessing. On the input side, planners are concerned by the possibility that Menghe's demand for raw uranium will outstrip global supply. On the output side, spent fuel will rise in tandem with the number of reactors: by 2030, it is projected that Menghe will produce 2,634 tHM of spent fuel per year, or roughly 4,100 tonnes including fuel assemblies and oxygen in oxides. With no long-term geological repository operational thus far, recycling spent waste is a high priority.

Originally, Menghe intended a large production run of Themiclesian HUNTR reactors, which would run on a mix of un-enriched uranium and re-machined spent fuel pellets. Cost and reliability issues with the HUNTR reactors led to a change in plans, with the new focus on developing Gen IV waste-burning reactors and modifying existing reactors to use re-processed fuel.

In 2018, the Menghean Uranium Processing Corporation (MUPC) opened a MOX fuel fabrication facility in Yusŏng county, with a maximum output of 40 tHM (tonnes Heavy Metal) per year. It produces fuel rods with 7% Plutonium content, of which approximately 65% is comprised of fissile isotopes. Two more MOX fabrication plants are under construction, and are projected to bring total output to 140 tHM by 2024.

Due to safety concerns following the Chimgu nuclear accident, the MNRA has not authorized the Ro-5, Ro-5G, CP1, and Ro-900 reactors to burn any quantity of MOX fuel, which increases the temperature of the reactor core and raises the risk of a steam accident. The Ro-1000 may use a core composed of up to 10% MOX-based fuel assemblies, and the Ro-1200 will be able to use up to 35% MOX fuel. By 2030, when Menghe's nuclear sector is comprised mainly of Ro-1200 reactors, MOX fuel assemblies could replace up to 628 tU in reactor refueling, more than twice the amount which can be reprocessed from then-operational reactors. Current figures suggest that MOX fuel from the Yusŏng plant is 20-25% more expensive than fuel from new enriched uranium, but this cost gap is likely to narrow as uranium demand increases.

Other research organizations are currently investigating new, more efficient reprocessing cycles. Wŏnsan Atomics has proposed a "REMIX" (Regenrated Mixture) fuel made up of a mix of reprocessed waste and new-enriched uranium, for a fissime content of 1% Pu-239 and 3% U-235. Wŏnsan claims that the Ro-1200 reactor could run entirely on REMIX fuel with minimal modification, and that the waste produced (2% Pu-239, 1% U-235) could itself be recycled into more REMIX fuel. This could be repeated for five cycles, or 60 years, the lifetime of a PWR reactor. The Hyangchun Technical University Nuclear Institute is investigating an alternative "two-loop closed cycle" linking Gen-III PWR reactors, which burn high-fissile plutonium (65% Pu-239) into its low-fissile isotopes, with Gen-IV fast neutron reactors, which breed low-fissile Pu into high-fissile Pu for recycling to Gen-III plants. The future of Menghean fuel reproccessing also depends heavily on the model of reactor chosen in the Generation IV design competition; reprocessed MOX fuel, remilled spent pellets, and fertile Thorium are all under consideration as fuel types, and some reactor models could be modified for multiple fuel options.

List of nuclear reactors

This is a list of all commercial nuclear reactors in Menghe, as of 1 January 2020. It includes reactors which are operational, as well as reactors which are currenty under construction and reactors which are scheduled to begin construction before the end of 2023. Small research reactors, such as the 1978 Ro-2 Anpo facility and the planned AeBR-10 LFTR prototype in Baekho county, are not listed, though commercial demonstrator designs producing at least 100 MWe for the civilian power grid are.

Name Unit
No.
Reactor Status Capacity in MWe Construction start Commercial operation Closure
Type Model Net Gross
Anbyŏn 1 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 5 August 2018 2024 (planned)
2 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 8 January 2019 2025 (planned)
3 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2020 (planned) 2026 (planned)
4 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2021 (planned) 2027 (planned)
Byŏkdong 1 PWR Ro-5 Operational 640 670 11 March 1983 22 June 1992 2026 (planned)
2 PWR Ro-5 Operational 640 670 7 September 1984 5 June 1994 2027 (planned)
3 PWR VVER V-412 Operational 932 1000 8 July 2008 5 November 2014
4 PWR VVER V-412 Operational 932 1000 22 December 2009 10 November 2015
Changjang 1 PWR CP1 Operational 944 984 1 July 1992 14 February 1999
2 PWR CP1 Operational 944 984 14 January 1995 25 September 2002
3 PWR CP1 Operational 921 972 18 March 1997 29 December 2008
4 PWR CP1 Operational 921 972 25 November 1999 27 March 2010
5 PWR CP1 Operational 920 960 30 April 2009 10 July 2015
6 PWR CP1 Operational 920 960 21 May 2010 7 December 2016
Chimgu 1 PWR Ro-5G Operational 660 700 9 September 1994 3 February 1999
2 PWR Ro-5G Operational 660 700 23 June 1996 4 January 2001
3 PWR Ro-5G Shut down 660 700 11 April 1998 14 February 2003 4 April 2003 (damaged)
4 PWR Ro-5G Operational 660 700 10 October 1999 27 July 2009
Chŏngjin 1 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 28 July 2015 2021 (planned)
2 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 10 November 2016 2021 (planned)
3 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 22 August 2017 2022 (planned)
4 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 12 April 2018 2023 (planned)
Daegwan 1 PWR Ro-5G Operational 660 700 3 March 2001 19 March 2009
2 BWR ABWR Operational 1315 1356 10 March 2006 13 June 2015
3 BWR ABWR Operational 1315 1356 27 March 2006 2 February 2014
4 BWR ABWR Operational 1315 1356 9 December 2008 2 November 2015
5 BWR ABWR Operational 1315 1356 30 March 2009 18 August 2016
6 PWR Ro-1000 Operational 1000 1080 9 April 2012 5 June 2018
7 PWR Ro-1000 Operational 1000 1080 24 August 2013 19 May 2019
Dongbang 1 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2021 (planned) 2027 (planned)
2 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2021 (planned) 2027 (planned)
3 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2022 (planned) 2028 (planned)
4 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2023 (planned) 2029 (planned)
Donggang 1 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2021 (planned) 2027 (planned)
2 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2021 (planned) 2027 (planned)
Gilsan 1 PWR Ro-900 Operational 920 960 22 July 2010 6 March 2016
2 PWR Ro-900 Operational 920 960 13 June 2010 21 January 2017
3 PWR Ro-1000 Operational 1000 1080 21 March 2012 29 September 2018
4 PWR Ro-1000 Operational 1000 1080 23 December 2012 24 August 2018
5 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 3 November 2017 2022 (planned)
6 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 14 December 2018 2024 (planned)
Gochŏn 1 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2022 (planned) 2028 (planned)
2 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2022 (planned) 2028 (planned)
Gwakpo 1 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2020 (planned) 2026 (planned)
2 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2020 (planned) 2026 (planned)
3 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2023 (planned) 2029 (planned)
4 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2023 (planned) 2029 (planned)
Hamhae 1 PBR RSR-250 Under construction 110 125 18 August 2013 March 2020 (planned)
2 PBR RSR-250 Under construction 110 125 19 August 2013 March 2020 (planned)
Hyangyang 1 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2022 (planned) 2028 (planned)
2 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2022 (planned) 2028 (planned)
Hyesan 1 SFR NR-600 Under construction 580 610 12 October 2017 2024 (planned)
2 SFR NR-600 Under construction 580 610 11 February 2018 2024 (planned)
Myŏnggan 1 PWR Ro-900 Operational 920 960 22 February 2011 6 August 2017
2 PWR Ro-900 Operational 920 960 12 March 2012 17 September 2018
3 PWR Ro-1000 Operational 1000 1080 14 December 2014 27 June 2019
4 PWR Ro-1000 Under construction 1000 1080 3 August 2015 April 2020 (planned)
5 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 6 January 2019 2025
6 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 6 January 2019 2025 (planned)
Onsŏng 1 PWR Ro-5G Operational 660 700 17 September 2000 24 March 2009
2 PWR Ro-5G Operational 660 700 13 May 2002 24 November 2010
3 PWR HAL Operational 994 1050 1 April 2006 18 October 2014
4 PWR HAL Operational 994 1050 14 October 2007 31 October 2014
Pangyo 1 PWR Ro-900 Operational 920 960 29 November 2011 16 November 2018
2 PWR Ro-900 Operational 920 960 23 January 2012 2 March 2018
3 PWR Ro-1000 Under construction 1000 1080 13 June 2015 2021 (planned)
4 PWR Ro-1000 Under construction 1000 1080 17 October 2016 2022 (planned)
Wŏlchulsan 1 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2022 (planned) 2028 (planned)
2 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2022 (planned) 2028 (planned)
Puryŏng 1 PHWR HUNTR Operational 650 728 30 June 2008 17 August 2014
2 PHWR HUNTR Operational 650 728 6 January 2009 2 November 2014
3 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 24 March 2016 2021 (planned)
4 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 8 July 2017 2022 (planned)
Riwŏn 1 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 14 May 2016 2021 (planned)
2 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 15 October 2017 2022 (planned)
Roji 1 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2021 (planned) 2027 (planned)
2 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2021 (planned) 2027 (planned)
Sinhŭng 1 PWR Ro-900 Operational 920 960 16 March 2011 3 October 2018
2 PWR Ro-900 Operational 920 960 12 January 2012 13 October 2018
3 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 13 October 2016 2021 (planned)
4 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 1 January 2017 2022 (planned)
5 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2022 (planned) 2028 (planned)
6 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2023 (planned) 2029 (planned)
Sơn Tây 1 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 8 April 2014 October 2020 (planned)
2 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 22 June 2014 November 2020 (planned)
3 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2023 (planned) 2029 (planned)
4 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2023 (planned) 2029 (planned)
Songsan 1 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 12 February 2015 2021 (planned)
2 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 15 December 2016 2022 (planned)
3 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 17 January 2018 2024 (planned)
4 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 13 March 2018 2024 (planned)
Su'an 1 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 20 January 2019 2025 (planned)
2 PWR Ro-1200 Under construction 1100 1220 23 August 2019 2025 (planned)
3 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2023 (planned) 2029 (planned)
4 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 2023 (planned) 2029 (planned)
Unam 1 PWR Ro-1000 Operational 1000 1080 11 May 2013 25 June 2019
2 PWR Ro-1000 Operational 1000 1080 3 November 2014 24 September 2019
3 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 February 2020 (planned) 2026 (planned)
4 PWR Ro-1200 Planned 1100 1220 October 2020 (planned) 2026 (planned)
Yŏnsa 1 PWR HAL Operational 994 1050 14 July 2008 12 October 2016
2 PWR HAL Operational 994 1050 29 March 2009 22 February 2016
3 PWR Ro-900 Operational 920 960 26 February 2010 7 September 2017
4 PWR Ro-900 Operational 960 960 18 January 2011 12 December 2017
5 PWR Ro-1000 Under construction 1000 1080 24 April 2014 January 2020 (planned)
6 PWR Ro-1000 Under construction 1000 1080 15 July 2015 2021 (planned)

Planned expansion

Because its high reliance on coal has resulted in severe air pollution and contributed to manmade climate change, Menghe has sought to increase the share of carbon-free energy sources in its electricity sector. Given the scale of the country's energy needs, this effort has included a major focus on nuclear power.

Successive Five-Year Plans, as laid out by the Ministry of Economic Development, have laid out a framework for developing Menghe's nuclear sector. The overall timeline calls for the large-scale construction of third-generation pressurized water reactors in the 2020s, with the goal of increasing the proportion of nuclear power in national electricity generation to 25% by the end of the decade. After 2030, all new-build nuclear power plants will use Generation IV reactor designs, based on a production-ready prototype selected in 2029. As the two main nuclear IPPs are no longer run by the Ministry of Economic Development, and as independent labs and private ventures are joining the design race, these Five-Year Plans represent targets rather than binding commands, but construction targets in the 2010s were all met and surpassed.

Plan Name 7th New 5YP 8th New 5YP 9th New 5YP
Years 2019-2024 2024-2029 2029-2034
Construction Begin construction of 30,000 MW in PWRs Begin construction of 30,000 MW in PWRs Begin construction of 50,000 MW in Gen-IV reactors
Development Build commercial-demonstrator Gen-IV reactors Evaluate commercial-demonstrator Gen-IV reactors Build commercial-demonstrator Gen-IV+ reactors
Closure None planned Decommission all Ro-5 reactors Decommission all Ro-5G reactors

Export of nuclear technology

Beyond its own borders, Menghe has also supported the development of the nuclear power sector in other countries, as part of an effort to reduce global carbon emissions and create export profits for the major nuclear power corporations.

Azbekistan signed an agreement for the purchase of two Ro-900 reactors in 2010, raising concerns about nuclear weapons proliferation. Work on the site froze after the outbreak of war with Khalistan and Anglia and Lechernt in the same year, but resumed in 2012, with the facility connecting to the civilian power grid in 2019.

Polvokia is another major customer for Menghean nuclear exports, signing contracts for two Ro-1000 reactors in 2015 and four Ro-1200 reactors in 2019.

In 2018, Menghe signed a controversial contract with Ummayah, agreeing to build a four-reactor Ro-1200 facility at Karala. To allay concerns over the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the contract requires that the fuel for the reactors be enriched in Menghe. Once cooled, the waste from the reactors will also be shipped to Menghe for reprocessing.

Nuclear shipping program

During the late 2010s, Menghean engineers began evaluating the idea of nuclear-powered container ships. The possible advantages of such a program would include faster shipment times and lower emissions; the latter has become a serious concern in Menghe, as container ships represent a major source of emission in large port cities like Gyŏngsan, Haeju, and Donggyŏng.

In 2019, diplomats from Menghe, Hallia, Dayashina, and Tír Glas established an international consortium on the development of nuclear container ships. Beyond the initial goal of sharing techology and evaluating feasibility, the program aims to generate a critical mass of major economies involved in the project, to ensure that nuclear-powered container ships are not excluded from key ports due to anti-nuclear regulations. Kolodoria signed on to the program in 2020.

Currently, cooperation on the project is still at an early stage, as member states evaluate strategies to make nuclear shipping more cost-effective and set common standards for maximum dimensions, port servicing, and safety. In April 2020 Menghe's National Nuclear Power Group leaked a slideshow that included a 3D model of a 40,000-TEU capacity nuclear container ship, though it was later revealed that this was intended as a prospective idea rather than a working prototype.

Anti-nuclear movement

Even when the DPRM's nuclear energy program was in its earliest stages, the plants drew opposition from within the general public. Anchŏn, the site of Menghe's first commercial nuclear reactor, was also the site of an atomic bombing in 1945, and while Communist Party officials saw this as a demonstration of the atom's peaceful potential, many locals saw it as a risk of repeated disaster.

While Choe Sŭng-min initially promised a shutdown of Menghe's entire nuclear program, rallying support from opponents of nuclear energy, in 1989 he ordered engineers to resume work on the Byŏkdong facility in Anchŏn. New reactor construction followed elsewhere in the country.

The anti-nuclear movement received new energy following the disaster at Chimgu. Menghe's economic opening and loosening of political control also allowed for the emergence of anti-nuclear NGOs and the expansion of activism more generally. When work began on the Hyangchun Gilsan plant in 2010, protesters blocked off access to the construction site, prompting the municipal government to call in riot police to disperse them. Similar protests emerged during the construction of the Unam plant in Gyŏngsan, and in 2014 anti-nuclear activists staged a brief spontaneous demonstration in the capital. Both protests were dispersed by police, with the ringleaders arrested for inciting a public disturbance.

After the 2010 Hyangchun protests, a central government document identified the need to restore public trust in nuclear energy through "confidence-building measures." In the years that followed, the government launched a public relations campaign to educate the public on improvements in nuclear safety and dispel false rumors about the risks involved, in the hopes of replacing radiophobia with a "facts-based approach." The middle-school science curriculum now includes lessons on the advantages of nuclear energy, and newspapers and magazines run regular editorials on the importance of nuclear power in a transition to clean energy. State censors also suppress media content that portrays nuclear power in a negative light, ostensibly on the basis that it contains factual inaccuracies, and both pro-regime activists and social media bots have been mobilized to refute anti-nuclear posts online.

There is some evidence that this media blitz is working. Credible polls show that the proportion of citizens favoring a 10-year phase-out of nuclear power fell from a high of 55% in 2003 to just 28% in 2019. In the same 2019 poll, 43% of respondents expressed support for the continued expansion of the nuclear sector, with 29% saying that it should remain the same size. The increased public debate about air pollution has also contributed to this shift in opinion. Even so, anti-nuclear activists have become increasingly vocal, and new nuclear power plants are still built outside of core urban areas to minimize the potential for protest. In the face of the MSP's staunch refusal to slow down reactor construction, some of the nuclear debate has spilled over into political opposition, with many independent candidates in the 2019 National Assembly elections expressing anti-nuclear policy stances.

See also