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Nuclear technology and dismantling/dismantling and disposal technology

Vitrification plant for highly radioactive waste in China

In 2009, a German consortium consisting of WAK, Steag and Kraftanlagen Heidelberg was tasked with the concept design, design and detailed engineering as well as the supply and installation monitoring of a vitrification plant in China (Vitrification Plant China VPC). The consortium was supported by the Institute for Nuclear Waste Disposal (INE) of the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology.

The plant is being built in Guangyuan in the Sichuan province and it features a design similar to the vitrification facility in Karlsruhe (VEK). However, it will have a throughput that is five times larger.

The construction of the plants in Guangyuan had already begun in mid-2014. Over the course of the next four years, the phased erection of the process building and the neighbouring intermediate storage facility will take place.

Following extensive testing of the individual components and the subsequent integration into the system environment, the plant is supposed to be commissioned in 2020 with comprehensive cold tests.

The centrepiece of the VPC process line – and therefore that of the entire plant – is the liquid-fed ceramic melting furnace. It features a vitrification performance of 50 litres of highly radioactive waste per hour. All components of the furnace were designed and optimised by FAH with regard to remote operability. As part of a successful factory acceptance test, a delegation from China approved the furnace before it was shipped to Guangyuan.

The transport of the furnace to China posed great logistic challenges due to a transport weight of 30 tonnes and its vibration-free transport packaging.

Project description

This project involves the vitrification of highly radioactive legacy waste of a reprocessing plant at the location of 821 Works near the city of Guangyuan, which has a population of three million. The Chinese government decided to transfer this waste to a secure form for long-term storage. Vitrification technology is globally recognised as the safest method for encapsulating highly radioactive liquids for intermediate or final storage. The Vitrification Plant China (VPC) complies with all the international standards for nuclear plants. We engineer and supply key technology and components for the vitrification process.

VPC is an earthquake-proof "Hot cell plant", in which the highly radioactive waste can be conditioned. The melting furnace cell, the cells for handling the "canisters" (stainless steel containers) and the exhaust air cell are equipped with lead glass windows, cell cranes, manual and heavy duty manipulators as well as shielding doors.

The hot cell section largely corresponds to the Karlsruhe vitrification facility (VEK) and mainly consists of the reception cell for highly active liquid waste, the vitrification cell, the exhaust gas cleaning system, the glass cylinder handling cell, the evaporator cell for medium-active liquid waste and auxiliary systems for media supply.

The vitrification takes place in a liquid-fed ceramic melting furnace that is heated electrically. While adding glass frit, the highly radioactive waste is vaporised, homogeneously bonded into a glass mass, calcined and then filled into the "canisters".

Fact sheet

CNEIC China Nuclear Energy Industrial Corporation / SEPEC Sichuan Environment and Protection Engineering Corporation

Period of execution:
2009 to 2021


  • Conceptual and basic design of the entire plant
  • Detailed design and supply of process components
  • On site support during installation and commissioning

Supplied components: 

  • Furnace, exhaust pipe and dosing container
  • Input and intermediate container
  • Scrubbers and condensers
  • Decontamination station including ultrasound and rinsing bath
  • remote controlled welding machine
  • special tools and connections for remote controlled operation and maintenance
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