One year on from the tsunami that so devestatingly struck Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station, a Chinese official has given the strongest hint to date that China will soon resume its own nuclear power program. Ren Junsheng, a nuclear safety expert at China’s Ministry of Environment Protection, told a conference in Hong Kong marking the first anniversary of the Fukushima accident that “the Chinese nuclear industry still feels confident to meet the installed capacity targets of 40 million and 70 million kilowatts by 2015 and 2020 respectively”.
Ren’s comments follow those by Huang Wei, China’s deputy envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who says that China had taken a series of measures to enhance nuclear safety, including safety management, in the wake of the Fukushima accident. At an IAEA meeting earlier this month, Wei said China now has 15 nuclear units in operation and 26 units in construction. Preliminary results released after comprehensive examinations ended last August showed the safety of these units were guaranteed, he said. Not, we pray, famous last words.
In January, Wang Binghua, board chairman of the State Nuclear Power Technology Corp., said that China’s first AP1000 nuclear power reactor, the Sanmen plant in Zhejiang, is expected to come into operation in 2013. That had been the clearest indication to date that China was planning to restart its nuclear power program. Ren and Wei’s comments suggest that the State Council’s review of China’s new nuclear safety proposals and the development program for the country’s ambitious nuclear program is imminent. Once the State Council has signed off, work will resume.