China's overall nuclear power goals will stay unchanged: Xie

Updated: 2011-03-31 15:56

By Rob Taylor (China Daily)

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CANBERRA - Japan's nuclear crisis at the stricken Fukushima power plant will lead China to adjust its own nuclear program to increase safety, but overall goals will stay unchanged, Beijing's chief climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua said on Wednesday.

Since the Japanese earthquake, China has suspended the approval of new nuclear projects pending a nationwide inspection of reactors and construction sites, putting a brake on a boom that began in 2005 when the central government fast-tracked nuclear power expansion.

"I believe this accident will have some impact on the development of nuclear power, not only in China, but also in the rest of the world," Xie told reporters at a climate change conference in the Australian capital Canberra.

"On the basis of doing all this evaluation work, we will further improve the nuclear development plan and I think that the nuclear development plan for China will be affected to a certain extent," he said, without providing details.

Before Japan's earthquake and tsunami, Beijing was bullish about the prospects for nuclear power in China, speeding through the approvals of dozens of reactors along the coast as part of a wider plan to reduce dependence on polluting fossil fuels.

According to the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) for nuclear power, China will have 42.9 million kilowatts of nuclear power generation capacity by 2015, with 27 reactors already under construction as part of a $150-billion expansion.

China has 13 working reactors with 10.8 gigawatts of total generating capacity. The official capacity target still stands at 40 gigawatts by 2020, although many in the industry have said a target of more than 80 gigawatts would be feasible.

But China Electricity Council Deputy Director Wei Shaofeng this week told a conference of electricity industry insiders that the crisis in Japan had created a groundswell of concern about nuclear power globally.

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Xie said China's overall nuclear development policy would remain unchanged by Fukushima, but the government's review will look at safeguards in new plants, the geological stability of their location and the training of staff.

The country was also experiencing problems with clean-tech development to complement nuclear power and replace heavy-polluting coal-fired power, he said.

China's existing nuclear-power facilities are located near coastal cities but energy-hungry inland regions like Chongqing are also seeking approval to build new plants.

"Now, we are still doing the work of reviewing the management and monitoring plan for nuclear safety in China to ensure the safety of nuclear power plants," Xie said.



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