China set to power on with massive nuclear plants

09:13, March 31, 2011      

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As the world discusses the safety of nuclear power, China appears to be keeping its faith in the sector, despite announcing a wave of emergency safety reviews in the wake of the crisis at Japan's Fukushima plant.

Nuclear safety standards will be reinforced, but China's plan for nuclear power remains unchanged, Xie Zhenhua, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said Wednesday during a visit to Canberra.

"On the basis of the findings of these evaluations, we will further improve the nuclear development plan," Xie said during a visit to the Australian capital, vowing that the plant review is aiming to ensure 100 percent safety.

This month, the government suspended the approval of all nuclear power plant projects, pending the completion of a nationwide inspection of all atomic reactors and construction sites.

Authorities had been ambitious about the potential of nuclear power and drafted plans to reduce China's dependence on fossil fuels.

The NDRC announced in January that annual nuclear power capacity is expected to stand at 40 GW by 2020, accounting for up to 6 percent of the nation's electricity supply, the State Power Information Network reported.

A total of $150 billion is set to be invested within this decade, the National Energy Administration announced in 2009.

China currently has 13 nuclear power stations in operation, but these make up only 2 percent of the country's electricity needs. The construction of another 27 plants is underway.

However, the tightened rules were not received gratefully by inland provinces, whose economic rise have led to an energy glut.

According to a report released in late 2010, 31 out of 43 sites seen as suitable to host a nuclear plant are located in inland regions, according to State Grid Corporation of China.

The intention to move plants inland has come under scrutiny since the incident in Japan, with critics questioning whether regions with few water sources are truly suitable for this purpose.

There is a primary conflict that must urgently be solved for the construction of nuclear plants in inland provinces, Gui Liming, a nuclear safety expert at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times Wednesday.

"Adjacent water sources are a must for a nuclear plant due to security concerns. However, many places with ample water supplies are also heavily populated. There must be a subtle balance between the safety of the population and the location of nuclear plants," Gui said.

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Source:Global Times
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