Standards for nuclear safety in China to be boosted

13:36, May 09, 2011      

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Emergency procedures will be upgraded to ensure nuclear safety in China following the Japan crisis, a senior official said on Sunday.

Ongoing safety inspections show that existing emergency procedures require further improvement to deal with multiple disasters, as happened in Japan, Liu Hua, head of the nuclear safety and radioactive safety management department under the Ministry of Environmental Protection, told China Daily.

China suspended approval of new nuclear power stations in March shortly after a 9.0-magnitude quake and ensuing tsunami crippled Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, causing radioactive leaks.

The State Council then demanded safety checks on nuclear facilities, including projects under construction, and a revision of safety standards to ensure the integrity of reactors.

"The lesson of Fukushima is that we need to improve emergency procedures, especially coordination among government departments," Liu said.

Guaranteeing power supplies to any crippled plant is crucial and Liu said his department might work with the State Grid Corp to prevent any disruption to power, as happened in Fukushima when the cooling system stopped pumping water into reactors after power was cut, causing a partial meltdown of the fuel rods.

"Access to power supplies is vital for nuclear safety. We are thinking of setting up mobile power generators in nuclear plants," he said.

Echoing Liu's remarks, Deputy Chief Engineer of China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) Tian Jiashu told China Daily the country has to establish nuclear emergency procedures that match its rapid development of nuclear power.

China is building 12 nuclear plants in addition to the six in operation, with at least 25 in the pipeline. The CNNC said in September that it plans to invest 800 billion yuan ($123 billion) into nuclear energy projects by 2020.

Emergency procedures, and the mechanisms to ensure that they are carried out, have been established at national, provincial and company level, but Tian said coordination between the nuclear sector and social sectors could be improved.

Liu also said that the government will raise construction standards for nuclear plants.

"We will set higher standards for flood control facilities and for the exterior walls of reactors," he said.

Safety checks showed that existing plants on the Chinese mainland "meet international standards", Liu said.

However, "we have to raise our standards to deal with complicated situations, like what happened in Japan".

Liu said the department is trying to complete inspections before August, after which it will issue a nuclear safety plan.

"Approvals for new nuclear projects can be resumed only after the plan is issued and modifications on their construction will be carried out subsequently."

Liu made the remarks on the sidelines of the 7th Cross-Straits Economic, Trade and Culture Forum, which was held in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, over the weekend.

The two-day session saw nuclear power safety on the agenda for the first time, and officials and experts endorsed the establishment of an information sharing mechanism.

Source: China Daily
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