The State Council has signed off “in principle” on China’s new nuclear safety proposals and the development plan for the country’s ambitious nuclear power program. This provides the green light for work to resume formally on plants under construction and for approvals to be granted for new plants, which include some of the world’s most advanced. Beijing put its nuclear program on hold pending the safety review initiated in the wake of the tsunami that so devastatingly struck Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station in March last year.
China has 14 operating nuclear reactors with a total capacity of 12GW, including that generated by its first experimental fast neutron reactor whose control room is seen in the photo above. There are at least 25 plants under construction, expected to raise capacity to 40GW by 2015. By 2020, nuclear power generation capacity is expected to reach 70GW. China’s long-term plans call for 5% of the country’s power to be generated by nuclear by 2020 and 10% by 2030, up from 1.2% in 2007.
Unlike Japan and Europe, China has just delayed, not scaled back its nuclear plans in the wake of the Fukushima accident. Last December, the National Energy Administration said nuclear energy would be the foundation of China’s power generation over the next “10 to 20 years”, adding as much as 300 GW of capacity over that period. (The World Nuclear Association has a list of existing and proposed plants here and a map of them here.)
Earlier this year, Ren Jungshen, a nuclear safety expert at China’s Ministry of Environment Protection, said that China’s nuclear industry was on track to hit its capacity targets for 2015 and 2020, one of a series of comments by Chinese officials suggesting the program was about to resume. Late last month, state media quoted an unnamed official saying that construction was already underway at 28 sites without giving details. This may include corrective work that was deemed necessary by the safety review at plants that fell short of the new earthquake and flood-control standards.
This Bystander expects that four or five new approvals for a further 5GW of capacity, costing 50 billion yuan ($7.8 billion) to build, will be given in short order, especially with the current desire to bring forward planned infrastructure spending to stimulate the economy. Some 20-30% of that sum could flow into order books this year.