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China to resume construction of nuclear plants

By LAN LAN  (China Daily)

13:37, October 25, 2012

The construction of new nuclear power stations. (Photo/China Daily)

The construction of new nuclear power stations, which had been suspended since the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, will be resumed in China.

But only a small number will be launched by 2015 and all of them will be located at coastal sites.

Prior to the Fukushima disaster, some energy officials indicated China would embark on as many as 40 nuclear energy projects during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), and at least seven inland provinces applied to host plants.

In contrast, according to a statement released on the government website on Wednesday, China will resume construction of nuclear power plants "in a steady and orderly way" and "at a reasonable pace".

Two programs — the national plan for nuclear power security (2011-20) and nuclear power development (2011-20) — were approved on Wednesday at an executive meeting of the State Council chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao. A national energy development program up to 2015 was also approved.

All new nuclear reactors must comply with the highest international safety standards, according to the plans.

He Jiankun, director of the Institute of Low Carbon Economy at Tsinghua University, said nuclear power strikes a balance between an increasing thirst for energy and the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions. "Nuclear energy is irreplaceable," he said.

China’s competitiveness will be compromised if it rejects nuclear power or if it fails to use the latest nuclear technology, he said.

The choice of a site for a nuclear power station "must be based on thorough scientific research". And there must be adequate assurances that under no circumstances would radioactive leakage occur, he added.

China’s nuclear power generating capacity accounts for just 1.8 percent of its electricity, lower than the average 14 percent for countries that have nuclear power, according to a government white paper on energy policies that was also released on Wednesday.

"The development of nuclear power is significant for the optimization of China's energy structure and will safeguard national energy security," it said, adding China will continue to develop nuclear energy in a "safe and highly efficient" way.

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