Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Wednesday, January 07, 2004

China ready to start its nuclear power plan

China was prepared to start a massive nuclear power plan and include nuclear power into the state electric power plan for the first time. This strategy of China has attracted world attention today when global nuclear power is developing slowly.


Project of Largest Nuclear Power Plant
In 2003 China was prepared to start a massive nuclear power plan and include nuclear power into the state electric power plan for the first time. This strategy of China has attracted world attention today when global nuclear power is developing slowly. What is the direct reason behind China's nuclear power action? What policy will China take to push forward this plan? Will the public's right to know and the extent of participation be further raised in the future? And how to choose the technical route for China's nuclear power? All these will determine the fate and future development of China's nuclear power.

Along with this winter's electricity shortage, news about nuclear power has come from various localities: Hubei Province is choosing a site for a planned nuclear power station, striving to make itself the first inland province with nuclear electricity. Hunan has passed the province's nuclear power construction plan, in an effort to build two 900,000-kilowatt units by 2010.While Chongqing has applied to the National Development and Reform Commission for permission to build nuclear power stations. Meanwhile, Sichuan Province is busy selecting a site in Yibin for the construction of a nuclear power station.

"The recovery of global nuclear power depends on China's development in this regard", said a general manager responsible for construction projects and asset management of China Branch of French Electricity Corporation (Electricite de France), to China's News Weekly on December 26, 2003. He predicted that by 2020 China will place itself in the first camp of the world nuclear power countries and in certain aspects will excel France - currently the number one country in world nuclear power.

Electricity deficiency-a boost to nuclear power development
The National Development and Reform Commission has worked out a long-term plan for nuclear power development: by 2004 China's nuclear power installed capacity will reach 36 million-kilowatts. The plan implies that as of 2004 China will approve the construction of at least two 1 million nuclear power units each year, this means building one nuclear power station of the Daya Bay type annually in the next 16 years.

New-Generation Nuclear Reactor Put into Use in China
As a matter of fact, nuclear power development has been going on for more than 30 years in China. But its development has never been incorporated into the national electric power plan. Instead, power projects were arranged individually and built in a scattered fashion. An opportunity arose finally in 2003.

With frequent occurrence of electricity shortages, the Chinese government decided to adjust the section on electric power in its 10th Five-Year Plan in early 2003. This provided the "appropriate development of nuclear power" an opportunity for "quantitative growth". The 16th CPC National Congress stated that China's GDP should be quadrupled by 2020, estimated on the basis of the economic development target of US$4 trillion, by then the nation will need generating installed capacity of around 800 million-900 million kilowatts. China's current installed capacity stands at 350 million kilowatts, so it needs newly added capacity of 450 million-550 million kilowatts.

Judged from the endowment of China's natural resources, "if achievement of the above goal relies entirely on coal, then it is necessary to add 1.2 billion tons of coal as the driving power, this will bring unbearable burden on resources, mining, transportation and the environment. Tang Zide, a staff member with the Main Projects Inspection Office of National Development and Reform Commission, (formerly he was a senior engineer at the Nuclear Power Office of the State Council), said that electricity shortage and the singleness of power structure become the direct motivating power for starting China's nuclear power construction.

"This marks the transition of China's nuclear power industry from the original appropriate development into the accelerated development phase", said Han Wenke, deputy director of Energy Sources Institute under the National Development and Reform Commission. On September 30, 2003 Vice-Premiers Huang Ju and Zeng Peiyan presided over a meeting specially studying the question concerning the plan for nuclear power development. On October 24 Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan, head of the Nuclear Power Leading Group under the State Council, chaired a conference on nuclear power construction in Hangzhou, capital of Zehjiang Province, making the strategy of restarting nuclear power construction become gradually distinct.

Ling'ao Nuclear Power Station Begins Commercial Operation
Behind the adjustment of the energy source structure through nuclear power, the intention of maintaining the nuclear technology can be seen indistinctly. China's present mode of nuclear industry was copied from the former Soviet Union. It is a combination of military and civilian management. A witness of the development of this industry believes that for many countries in the world, development of nuclear power is very important to maintaining a nuclear technology force. "For example, although Japan is a non-nuclear nation, it would be very fast if it were to develop atom and hydrogen bombs." he remarked.

World coolness vs. China's passion
In November 2003, led by China National Technology Import & Export Corporation and formed by China National Nuclear Corporation and Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, the Nuclear Power Global Bidding Preparation Conference was held.

Framatome from France, Westinghouse from the United States and another six nuclear power equipment providers from Russia, Japan and Germany gathered in Beijing.

Such a lively scene is rarely seen nowadays since global nuclear power development has stagnated for more than 20 years. Data from PRIS show that by the end of 2000 there were altogether 438 nuclear reactors in operation worldwide, by March 2003 the number was 441, increasing by only 3. Former Secretary-General of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mr. Blix remarked with a sigh before leaving his post: "Global nuclear power is coming to a standstill."

Although the long-term nuclear power program will constitute only 4 percent of the national electricity generation capacity by 2020, its absolute quantity is remarkably large. In view of the enthusiasm shown for nuclear electricity throughout the country, the actual scale of Chinese nuclear power development is expected to exceed the present plan.

However, "the huge amount of investment, expanding budget, accumulated nuclear wastes and the management of nuclear power stations are unknown changing factors." Wang Yi, a Research Fellow from Eco-Environmental Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told the News Weekly that in the past 40 years, besides difficulty in figuring out the enormous change in the costs for nuclear power generation among different countries, the disposal of nuclear wastes has long been a problem under endless debate. Currently, there is still no way of properly treating the emission of huge amounts of nuclear waste materials.

"The experience of some countries in developing nuclear power merits our attention. For example, Brazil and Spain in the 1980s, without definite planning, blindly introduced nuclear technology at great costs and had no follow-up projects after building several nuclear power stations, thus causing enormous waste." Academician Ma Fubang, a chief engineer of China National Nuclear Corporation, pointed out in a recent article that China should draw a lesson from their experience.

This article, relayed from China News Service and China News Weekly, was translated by PD Online

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