China achieves comprehensive domestic production of carbon-14 supply

01:18

China has achieved the mass production of carbon-14 isotopes via its commercial reactor for the first time, announced the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) on Saturday.

According to the CNNC, the project was carried out in China’s very first nuclear power plant, Qinshan, and the production capacity is expected to fully meet domestic demand, as some 150 curies of carbon-14 were produced, much higher than the annual import of around 100 curies.

A view of the Qinshan Nuclear Power Plant in Jiaxing City, east China’s Zhejiang Province. /CMG

A view of the Qinshan Nuclear Power Plant in Jiaxing City, east China’s Zhejiang Province. /CMG

The Qinshan Nuclear Power Plant, located in Jiaxing City, east China’s Zhejiang Province, launched the project in 2022 by producing carbon-14 in a heavy water reactor of commercial nuclear power units, in an attempt to ensure the domestic supply of radioactive isotopes.

Carbon-14 is widely applied as a marker in agriculture, chemistry, medicine, biology and other fields for being radioactive and detectable. In the past, China’s carbon-14 supply largely relied on imports, which were both costly and uncertain, and as a result, the development of its downstream industries was also severely constrained.

The carbon-14 target. /CMG

The carbon-14 target. /CMG

Shang Xianhe, general manager of the Qinshan Nuclear Power Plant, told China Media Group (CMG), “We are now able to produce carbon-14 domestically, it will greatly increase the number of domestic users and further promote the development of downstream application technologies for carbon-14.”

“The first difficulty actually came from the technical and management barriers. We all know that a nuclear power plant is a power-producing reactor. If we want to produce carbon-14, we need to first understand our user demand and then put the target into the reactor to irradiate it,” he explained.

“After radiation, the target object needs to go through a nuclear chemical process to get purified and transformed into the material that meets the application requirements. The whole process spans a relatively long chain,” Shang added.