The safety review instituted after the Fukushima disaster in Japan has produced a new set of emergency guidelines for China’s nuclear plants, mainly intended to cope with multiple natural disasters. The inspections of existing plants and those under construction ordered in March are continuing. Construction work had not been stopped on the 12 new plants where work has already started but ground is not being broken for any of the 25 or more proposed new plants where it has not.
We don’t expect work to start on any of them until new construction standards are set out. Those are unlikely to be announced before the safety inspections are completed, which won’t be before August at the earliest, we understand. Meanwhile existing and plants under construction will have reinforcements made to their exterior walls and their anti-flood defenses improved in line with what the new construction standards are likely to require.
China’s voracious energy demands–power shortages are already showing up in key industrial areas–leave Beijing with little option in the long-run but to resume its ambitious expansion of the country’s nuclear power program once it is satisfied that safety standards are adequate. The concern about anti-flood defenses reflects both the lessons of Japan’s devastating tsunami and fears about increased risk of flooding in China’s coastal regions where most of the country’s existing and proposed nuclear power plants are or will be built. That is both because of a general increase in urban flood risk and forecasts that this year’s typhoon season will be particularly severe.