Marine areas off-limits for nuke power stations

Updated: 2011-04-07 09:54

By Liu Yiyu and Wang Qian (China Daily)

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BEIJING - China has suspended new approvals for the use of marine space in nuclear projects. That's after the State Council ordered a halt to the construction of new nuclear power stations, according to a statement on the website of the State Oceanic Administration (SOA).

"All approvals for marine space required for coastal nuclear plants were halted on March 17," Gu Wu, office director of sea-bed management at the SOA, told China Daily on Wednesday.

It's not clear when the approvals process will resume, and is subject to the decision of the State Council, Gu said.

The move came after the State Council, China's cabinet, announced on March 16 that the government will suspend approvals for new nuclear power stations and start a safety assessment on all plants, including those already under construction, until a nuclear energy safety plan is issued.

Seawater is used as a coolant in some of the reactors and the vast areas of coastal lands suitable for reclamation offer an ideal space for the location of nuclear power stations.

All three of China's current nuclear facilities - Qinshan power station in Zhejiang province, Daya Bay power plant in Guangdong province and Tianwan power plant in Jiangsu province - are located in coastal regions and operate 13 reactors between them. The country has another 25 reactors under construction, all of which are situated in coastal areas.

However, projects already under construction will not be affected by the State Council's ruling. Moreover, the move is unlikely to have a great effect on the development of coastal plants as the country may begin to build more reactors in inland areas, said Xiao Xinjian, an expert at the Energy Research Institute of the National Development and Reform Commission.

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The layout of the nuclear plants is almost complete in coastal regions, Xiao said.

The marine works of the Tianwan extension project commenced on March 15, according to the website of China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC), China's largest nuclear developer.

Of the 25 plants currently under construction along the coastline, 60 percent are being developed by China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group (CGNPG) and are expected to be operational by 2015.

The development of inland nuclear plants will be placed on the agenda, said Ye Qizhen, deputy director of the science and technology committee of CNNC, according to an article on CGNPC's website.

Inland nuclear plants come later in China because energy demand was much larger in the eastern parts, Ye said.

Around 60 percent of the world's nuclear reactors are situated in inland regions, according to Ye.

However, inland nuclear plants have come later in China because of the overwhelming demand for energy in the eastern parts of the country, Ye said.

Unlike Japan, a super-typhoon is the biggest natural challenge facing Chinese nuclear power plants.

"China's nuclear technologies are advanced and have high standards of safety, but extreme situations will have to be taken into account," said Wang Kan, director of the Institute of Nuclear Energy Science and Engineering Management at Tsinghua University.


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